At halftime, an apparently distraught K.C. Ross-Miller asked his father a question: "What can I do to play better?"
Tim Miller, who coaches his son's Texas-based God's Academy team, had an answer for the future Kentucky Wildcat.
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"Do what you normally do," the elder Miller told his son.
K.C. Ross-Miller played better in the second half, but not well enough to help his team win nor quiet critics who question whether he's good enough to play for Kentucky nor soothe his wounded psyche.
"I played bad," a downcast Ross-Miller said after his team lost 75-73 to Campbell Memorial (Ohio) in the Dunkin Donuts National Shootout Saturday night.
"I believe I was part of the reason we lost. I'm the point guard, and I didn't control the team."
Ross-Miller made five of 14 shots, scored 12 points, handed out six assists and committed four turnovers.
His father believed Ross-Miller, a 6-foot junior who committed to UK more than a year ago, felt pressure to perform in the event.
"He wanted to play good here in front of the people he's going to play for," said Tim Miller, who noted how his son played "out of character."
Ross-Miller denied feeling such pressure, but he acknowledged getting a Mohawk haircut for the occasion.
"I wanted to try something different since this was a new thing coming here," he said, his mood brightening slightly.
Recruiting analysts question whether Ross-Miller shoots well enough from the perimeter. He missed all three three-point attempts. They also say he gets into the lane, but doesn't finish (or make the short shots in traffic).
With the stands half-filled at Lexington Catholic's gym, the night began poorly when the public-address announcer referred to "Ross Miller" as one of the starting guards.
"I heard that," Ross-Miller said with a thin smile. "I just went out there and played."
Ross-Miller hit his first shot — a pull-up jumper from the right baseline barely a minute into the game. He missed his next five shots in the first half. His other four baskets were layups.While Ross-Miller struggled, two of his teammates made favorable impressions.
Forward Richard Armardi, an import from Toronto, Canada, who joined the God's Academy team last week, made eight of nine shots, scored a team-high 18 points and grabbed six rebounds.
"I love Richard Armardi," the God's Academy coach said. "Love him. ... He doesn't know anything of what we run. He's learning Johnny on the spot."
Armardi, a senior, isn't far along in the recruiting process. When asked if Kentucky had showed interest, Tim Miller said, "They've not said a whole lot to me. If I was them, I'd be interested."
God's Academy's other top player, 6-8 power forward Josten Thomas, did not play. He was suspended because of two technical fouls in a game Friday, one for taunting after a dunk and the other for retaliating to a defender's grab by throwing a " 'bow," Tim Miller said.
Such schools as Kentucky, South Carolina, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas Christian, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Oral Roberts have shown interest in Thomas, the God's Academy coach said.
"I'd guess if Kentucky offers him, they'd probably jump to the top," Tim Miller said.
Thomas likes the idea of playing with Ross-Miller, Tim Miller said.