BY MARK MATHIS Messenger-Inquirer | Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 12:00 am
Brett Miller had a unique perspective on both the Dominican Republic National Team and the University of Kentucky during its Big Blue Bahamas exhibition tour that was just completed Sunday.
Miller, in his second season as assistant men's basketball coach at Kentucky Wesleyan College, has spent the last four summers working with the Dominican national team. Miller landed that summer work from being a manager and graduate assistant coach for John Calipari at UK from 2009 through 2013. Miller's time spanned the 2012 national championship season and the 2011 UK appearance in the Final Four.
"I've had a lot of different roles," Miller said of his work with the Dominican Republic team. "My first year I was a manager, and each year they've added stuff to my plate. My latest title was special assistant to the head coach. I'm still helping out on the court, but I'm not one of the top two assistant coaches."
The head coach of this year's Dominican team is Orlando Antigua, a former assistant coach with Calipari at Kentucky. Antigua is now head coach at South Florida. Miller was in New York City on Monday helping the Dominican Republic team get ready for an exhibition with Team USA on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
Miller was like everybody else who saw UK play last week. Impressed was a good place to start.
"There's no one better as far as molding people and getting guys together than Coach Cal," Miller said. "A lot of people have said, ‘Where are all the minutes going to come from?' With this group, I don't see playing time as a factor. Coach Cal has always done a great job getting people on the floor, and doing the system he did down there, five in, five out, showed how good they all were.
"Even with my years at UK, I got to work with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, and the national championship year, this team could easily be something special and something that could rival those teams. My first impression of them was wow. They're so big they could play 2-3 (zone), they're all long (armed) enough they could create chaos that way. They could press you the whole way."
The possibilities could be endless.
UK took its only loss on the Bahamas trip Sunday to the Dominican Republic, falling 63-62 as UK went 5-1 on the tour.
"As I've kept telling people, we were all in the Bahamas and it's summer time," Miller said. "Sunday, the best thing I could say, both teams are still trying to learn. You're not going to sub like a regular game, you're not going to play it like a regular game. Even at the end of the game, that five that was out there for us, and the same for Kentucky, it's not going to be the same five you would have at the end of a regular game. Coach Antigua drew up the last play for us and we did it exactly the way he said it in the huddle."
UK still had one last chance with a little over two seconds left after Jack Martinez hit a jumper in the lane to give the Dominican Republic the 63-62 lead that would also be the final score.
But the Wildcats had a pass deflected and didn't get off a final shot.
As Miller said, it's summertime, and the Cats had finished a run of six games in eight days. Both teams got great experience with playing together and putting themselves in situations they'll face when the games actually count. Also having a close knowledge of how UK would do things in some of those situations was an advantage for Antigua and the DR.
"Whenever games are close, when run you plays at the end of the game, with 2.6 seconds left, I knew what they were going to run, Coach Antigua knew what they were going to run," Miller said. "We all know what's going to happen on the other side, even if they still execute they still have a chance to win the game. You can't simulate that in practice."
Miller will be returning to Owensboro soon to resume work with KWC and head coach Happy Osborne.
"I've known Happy for a decade," Miller said. "I started working his camps at a young age (when Osborne was head coach at Georgetown College). He's opened his arms to me several times."
Mark Mathis, (270) 691-7313, email@example.com