Miller's time arrives for Rutgers hoops

Of the young talent on the men's basketball team coach Fred Hill consistently talks about, none has shown more improvement in the first half of the season than freshman wing Dane Miller. Heading into Saturday's clash at South Florida (7 p.m.), Miller has been Rutgers' top performer in Big East games. He recently moved into the starting lineup, and scored 15 points in his first start.

One of the roles junior power forward Jonathan Mitchell plays for Rutgers is that of leader, so when it came time to head on the road, he asked a simple question of coach Fred Hill.

Mitchell wanted to room with freshman wing Dane Miller so he could share his veteran knowledge, and make sure Miller was doing the right things.

"We watch film all the time on the road,'' Mitchell said. "He loves film. He loves watching the game. He loves basketball. It's really helping him grow.''

In a difficult and frustrating 0-4 start to the Big East season, the brightest spot has been the play of Miller. He moved into the starting rotation earlier this week, and is averaging 14.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in conference play as the Scarlet Knights (9-7) head into Saturday's game at South Florida (10-6, 0-4).

Overall, Miller is averaging 7.9 points per game, and is Rutgers' second-leading rebounder at at 5.6 per game.

"He's shown the most improvement on the team,'' Mitchell said. "He lets the game come to him. He's coming to his own, but he's still got a long ways to go. He's still young and inexperienced at this level. He can't be complacent.''

The 6-foot-7 Miller brings tremendous athleticism to the wing, a decent outside shot and an aggressive approach to rebounding. Miller, along with junior college transfer point guard James Beatty, were moved into the starting rotation prior to Wednesday's loss to Syracuse.

Miller responded with 15 points and five rebounds.

"I just thought that Dane's been playing terrific and has been playing very well, and he gets us in the flow,'' Hill said. "We're really trying to push the ball up the floor, and (Beatty) is a little bit more of a pure point guard and he facilitates the offense.''

Against Syracuse, Miller was one of the few Scarlet Knights willing to attack the basket and play physical against the Orange's big interior.

However, there are also those freshman moments, like trying to force the ball into the middle of Syracuse zone to center Hamady Ndiaye, or raising his hands in disbelief when a pass to Mitchell under the basket was intercepted.

Miller turned the ball over eight times against Syracuse, and has turned it over 17 times in the last three games.

"I feel like at the beginning of the game I came out real energetic,'' Miller said. "I was doing what I wanted. They were giving me my shot, I was taking it to the basket, and making plays for others. Then, I went away from that and picked it back up in the second half. I think I have to keep that intensity the whole game.''

Miller is also getting used to the starting, which is markedly different since he is used to getting a feel for the pace and style of play during the first few minutes while seated on the bench.

"On the bench you get to know what the coaches are saying, you get to watch a little bit,'' Miller said. "But when you start, you're thrown in there with the wolves. You've got to adjust real fast.''

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