A Meetin' With Keaton

West Virginia seems primed to tap the resource that is Keaton Miles.

The sophomore came off the bench against VMI to score a career-high 11 points and provided a mix of energy, length and intelligent all-around ability sorely lacking during WVU's 1-3 start. Head coach Bob Huggins responded by playing Miles 25 minutes, a second straight game the forward has surpassed a career high, and it seems Miles is primed for a breakout series of games.

"A guy challenged me in the (Oklahoma) game and said that I couldn't shoot," Miles said. "He just brought something out in me. From that point on, I've been feeling good from the standpoint of bringing more confidence and just being out there to compete. … I just wanted to go out there and help my team as much as possible. I just feel more comfortable in the offense, but I'm still learning because I have to play the three and the four now. I'm just trying to contribute as much as possible."

In all, Miles hit three of four shots, made all five of his free throws, had three rebounds and amassed four steals, two blocks and two assists against one turnover. It was arguably the best overall line of the night outside of Gary Browne, even Juwan Staten's 18 points not withstanding. It wasn't flashy, it wasn't jaw-dropping. Instead, Miles embodied what the squad should be at this point – a workmanlike, steady group still trying to jell. At times, West Virginia instead resembles a jumbled pick-up game with its poor offensive habits, bad shot selection and inability to score from outside.

"He has a credit. He can miss shots and still stay on the court because he guards people and he blocks shots," Deniz Kilicli said. "He gives us energy and that's his role. That's been his role. He's just trying to do his best at it and that's why he's been playing really well for us."

Miles seems the antitheses of WVU ‘s overall play this thus far, hustling for the entirety of his time on the floor, taking smart shots, rebounding, getting up and down and rarely committing glaring mental or physical mistakes. He also plays the type of blue-collar defense with the length that the coaching staff adores. It begs the question: Why, just now, is Miles seeing increased minutes?

"We had what we had," West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said of injuries and foul trouble that plagued Kevin Noreen and Kilicli, respectively. "Really, Keaton's match-up was probably better (than Deniz Kilicli's due to VMI's small size). … If you defend and rebound, the rest of it will come. Those are two things you can control, and (Keaton has) taken that to heart. He did a good job defending and he rebounded the ball. He has passed the ball better. He does reverse the ball."

Miles, a Dallas native, averaged 1.4 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season and managed just 46 total points. He already has 27 this season, and should easily set career highs in every statistical category by season's end. In the last two games alone, Miles has bettered his career highs in points with eight against Oklahoma, then the 11 versus VMI. In addition, Huggins utilizes Miles' length to lessen the ability of the opposing team's best player, be it at the two, three, or four slots, and sometimes others.

"He is doing what he is supposed to do. You don't see him dribbling the ball. He's passing the ball, he'll rebound and he'll go score," guard Browne said. "Keaton is always going to help us. He is being real consistent. That's what we need from everybody. He can change shots, block shots, make passes, be in the help line. He guards the best players on the other team."

Miles said he bettered his offensive game over the summer. His shot, he says, is more accurate, and he feels he can showcase more of his overall game, hitting jumpers, attacking the rim, pressuring opposing players. It's early, but he appears to perhaps be the do-it-all jack that WVU needs.

"I'm feeling more comfortable," Miles said. "Previous to this, including last game, I was thinking too much. … It's more natural now. I'm just working hard and trying to make plays. I don't want to talk too much about myself."

Your play already is.


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