UK Men's Basketball

UK's Miller enjoying golden glow

University of Kentucky sophomore Darius Miller now knows what it feels like to represent his state and his country.

The Maysville native spoke to the media Wednesday afternoon about his recent trip to New Zealand with the gold-medal-winning USA men's basketball team at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships.

But Miller had trouble putting into words how it felt to play with "USA" across his chest.

"In that first game, when we were getting introduced, I was sitting there looking across at another team from another country," Miller said. "I don't even know how to explain it after it hit me that I was representing the country."

The opportunity to travel abroad and see New Zealand helped him grow and appreciate his home country more than ever, Miller said.

On and off the court, Miller said with a smile, people "looked up to us and respected us because we were from the U.S."

On the court, Miller said, opposing teams came out with something to prove each game, and Team USA "had to bring our 'A' game every day or we weren't going to win."

Away from the court, he said, he enjoyed taking in the scenery and seeing things "not a lot of people get to see." The team went on a mini-cruise, Miller said, and tours included a stop at a volcano.

The trip wasn't perfect, though — except for the players hoping to lose weight.

"The food wasn't too good. A lot of us lost a little bit of weight while we were there. To be totally honest, I didn't try a lot of it," Miller said. "I'm kind of a picky person when it comes to food. I stuck to the basics: fish, burgers, stuff like that."

What kind of exotic dishes did Miller pass on?

"I don't even really have a clue what some of it was called."

In the tournament's nine games, Miller averaged 5.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists. Cementing his role as one of the team's more versatile players, Miller led Team USA with 14 steals and 12 blocks.

He was the eleventh-best scorer on the 12-man roster, but he said the intensity and energy he brought to both ends of the court was what made him valuable to Team USA.

Miller was unsure whether he'll become more of a scorer next season at UK or carry over the role of utility man.

He noted that some things from the tournament might not carry over because of rules differences between college and international play.

The most apparent rules difference, Miller said: traveling.

"We got a lot of travels called on us," Miller said. "The way you had to gather yourself when you caught the ball, it was kind of different. It took a while to get used to it."

One of Miller's teammates was Shelvin Mack, a Bryan Station alumnus and sophomore-to-be at Butler. Mack, the team captain, averaged 5.9 points and 2.9 rebounds.

Miller and Mack, who played AAU ball together in high school, roomed together throughout the tournament. Miller said that pre-existing relationship helped him during the trip.

"That really helped out with the whole experience, having a friend like that," Miller said. "We had a great time. He played really well, too. He held his own and did a great job."

Competing with Team USA also meant representing Kentucky, Miller said, noting the regular trash-talking conversations between players from different schools.

Miller said it was all friendly because, despite the heavy competition during the school year, the team united each player toward winning for the country.

And when he looks back on the tournament, Miller said, that's what he'll remember — representing his country.

"I think it'll mean a lot to me down the road," he said. "I already gave my jersey to my mom; she's going to get it framed."