Miller shed some frustrations at Knoxville

To borrow a term from the pro football draft, Kentucky freshman Darius Miller had gone from Mr. Basketball to Mr. Irrelevant.

Then Miller contributed 21 productive minutes to UK's 90-72 victory at Tennessee on Tuesday.

"Darius Miller started becoming the Darius Miller we recruited," UK Coach Billy Gillispie said after the game. "He's going to be a great player, not good."

Miller made his first three-pointer since the Dec. 22 game against Tennessee State and scored seven points, which marked his highest total since getting 13 against Delaware State on Nov. 22.

"It seems like I've gotten more comfortable the last couple games," Miller said.

Coincidentally or not, the confidence came after he and his father, Brian, met with Gillispie to talk about the player's frustrations.

Gillispie linked those frustrations to the customary rocky road traveled by players going from high school star to college trainee.

Miller's basketball career only widened that gap considering that less than a year ago he led Mason County to the state championship and became Kentucky's Mr. Basketball.

Then at UK, he struggled to find himself, an identity crisis reflected in dismal shooting (31.1 percent overall and 18.2 percent from three-point range going to Knoxville) and dwindling playing time (the nadir being seven minutes against Florida Atlantic).

"He's a freshman on a major college campus," Gillispie said. "It takes time for those guys to play like they did (in high school) because they've always been one of the best players on the floor."

After the Tennessee game, Miller credited Gillispie with helping his confidence.

"Playing kind of helps my confidence, too," he said with a smile. "Knowing he trusts me being out there."

Not counting free throws, Miller hadn't made a shot in his three previous games (0-for-8). That included one shot that seemed to defy gravity by spinning over the rim and out of the basket.

But Gillispie balked at the suggestion that Miller's confidence needed a boost that can come from making a shot.

"I don't think he's worried about a psychological boost of any kind," the UK coach said. "Darius is tougher than that. He doesn't need to see the ball going through the basket for him to play hard and get better.

"He played well (at Tennessee) and the best is yet to come with Darius Miller."