This article appears in the December 2004 edition of SchoolSports magazine.
Skyline senior C.J. Miles doesn't have to travel far when heading to his favorite hangout spot. He simply walks out his front door, crosses the street and arrives at … Skyline High School.
Unless you have a hankering for extra hours at the library, spending time at school when you don't have to sounds about as appetizing to most teenagers as one of those insect-eating challenges on "Fear Factor."
But before you classify Miles as a bookworm, we should clarify. The 6-foot-6, 210-pound shooting guard/small forward spends most of his extra time at school working on his game with teammates at Skyline's gymnasium.
"I'm pretty much a gym rat," says Miles, who's rated the nation's No. 17 overall recruit in the Class of 2005 by SchoolSports.com. "It's probably the best time, having fun and shooting around. There isn't anything better than having fun and getting better."
Besides shooting hoops for hours every day, Miles and his pals time themselves in the two-mile run each day and try to break that mark during the next workout. Add in three days a week of weightlifting and you're talking about a kid who's never satisfied.
"He puts in a lot of extra time," says Skyline head coach J.D. Mayo, who enters his 29th season at the Raiders' helm with a record of 575-306. "He plays basketball. When he's finished playing basketball, he plays more basketball. He's a relentless worker. He's a lot like (former Skyline superstar and NBA All-Star) Larry Johnson in that regard."
Hard work is nothing new for Miles. In fact, he's been fine-tuning his game for as long as he can remember. From dunking on toy hoops his father, Calvin Miles Sr., used to buy for him to playing in countless basketball leagues, C.J. has developed his skills to the point where he's now considered one of the best all-around players in the country.
It just took a little perseverance on C.J.'s part to have the opportunity to showcase those skills.
In the fifth grade, C.J. played in the White Rock/Lake Highlands YMCA league for a team that was coached by his father. C.J. was taller than most of the kids, so Calvin stuck him in the post. While C.J. more than held his own in the paint, he'd been working on his ball-handling skills and had developed a jones to play the point.
The problem was that Calvin wasn't ready to give his son that opportunity. So that's when C.J. utilized a child's greatest weapon against a parent: persistent aggravation.
"I told C.J. that I needed him to stay under the basket because he was our best post player," says Calvin, who coaches the AAU squad D-Nice and is an assistant coach for Team Texas, which is one of the top AAU programs in the country. "He kept bugging me until I said, ‘Fine, if I let you play the point, will you stop bugging me about it?' That game, we ended up blowing the other team out by 20 points. I was shocked by his court vision and how he made his teammates better. From that day on, I let him have the ball."
These days, C.J.'s all-around game is just plain filthy. With a shot that's smoother than a Mos Def rhyme, a break-your-ankles handle, and the rebounding and post skills of a power forward, it's a wonder defenders don't wave a white flag when forced to guard the SchoolSports All-American.
That versatility allows coach Mayo to play his star lefty anywhere from point guard to center. And it shows in the numbers. As a sophomore, C.J. averaged 15.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Last year, he averaged 23.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per contest to earn District 10-5A MVP and Class 5A All-State first team honors.
But what's even more impressive than his stats is C.J.'s willingness to share the spotlight with his teammates even though he could light up the scoreboard on any given night.
"C.J. is so unselfish," says Calvin. "A lot of folks want him to go for 40 points a game, but that's not his style. The first thing he wants to do is get his teammates involved. He'd rather have 20 assists. I always tell the kids that once C.J. gets the board, fill the lane because he's going to find you."
It's not uncommon for casual observers to compare C.J.'s skills to those of NBA All-Stars after watching him play or glancing at his stats. But when the observers are college basketball coaches and they're comparing C.J. to one of the best players in the NBA, that's something to talk about.
"One of the college coaches actually showed me some game tape of Kobe Bryant and said how our games are similar," says C.J., who signed with Texas in mid-November. "The coaches say I play like him because of how I handle the ball on the wing, how I run the floor and how I can take it to the rack. I take it as a compliment. But to be honest with you, I want to be better than Kobe. I want when other kids are looking at schools that the coaches show them videotape of me and say they play like me."
Until then, the sound of basketballs hitting the floor will resonate from the Skyline gym all the way down Forney Road. C.J. Miles is working, and he isn't stopping until he reaches perfection.
"The hardest thing about this game is staying where you are," says C.J. "The way I feel, if I can keep working, I can keep getting better. I don't want to stay where I am."