Big Jake Makes Debut Tonight

Nov. 11, 2010

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

When Paul Hewitt’s team tips off its season tonight in Alexander Memorial Coliseum, a different-yet-familiar brand of basketball will be on display, and a new folk star who goes by “Big Jake” just may be unveiled.

As Georgia Tech begins life after the Derrick Favors-Gani Lawal double towers of power routine with a more up-tempo approach on both ends of the court, many names will be familiar to fans as the Yellow Jackets return to many of the methods the Tech coach used prior to last season.

Hewitt said sophomores Glen Rice Jr. and Mfon Udofia and junior Iman Shumpert will start in the backcourt, and seniors Moe Miller and Lance Storrs, and talented true freshman Jason Morris will play. “This is more of a dribble-drive [offense], like Kentucky,” Hewitt said. “It’s predicated on attacking off the dribble.”

The frontcourt rotation will contain a familiar face in Brian Oliver, and while Hewitt had not as of the other day settled on his frontcourt starters, redshirt freshmen Kammeon Holsey and Daniel Miller will play plenty. At times, Oliver – perhaps the team’s most gifted shooter – may work from the backcourt as Holsey and Miller work inside.

Yet while a team predicated largely on the multi-tasking skills of multiple players – many players will be expected to handle the ball, shoot the ball, drive with it, rebound, defend, start the break and finish it interchangeably – as the Jackets take on Charleston Southern at around 7:30 following the women’s opener against Georgia State, watch Daniel Miller.

They call him, “Big Jake.”

There’s a story behind that label, and maybe one day we’ll go into more detail, but the short version is that a few years ago in offseason AAU ball Rice’s team came up against Miller’s and nobody knew much about the now 6-foot-11, 248-pound grandson of University of Georgia track and field legend Forrest “Spec”Towns.

They just knew the big fella was killing them.

“Somebody’s got to stop big Jake,” went up a cry during a stop in the action.

Miller labored in relative obscurity in high school, playing at Loganville Christian Academy in the Independent Christian Schools of Georgia-Alabama. As a junior, he put up crazy numbers, averaging 28.9 points, 12.3 rebounds and 6.9 blocks per game.

But the ICSGA was far off the beaten path, and Miller wasn’t much into AAU ball, at least not nearly to the degree of many of his present teammates.

So he was off the radar before committing to Georgia only to seek a release when coach Dennis Felton was fired.

I have a hunch he’ll work his way onto the radar of fans quickly. Even after watching him for a few minutes, most will agree that Miller looks every bit like a Big Jake. Some nicknames just fit.

His shoulders are slightly hunched, he pulls his shorts up a little higher than some, he has a sleepy look that has nothing to do with a recent bout of strep throat that cost him 17 pounds, and he even speaks in a Big Jake-ish way.

There’s country cool in Miller, who when asked how he felt after Tech’s struggled to beat Clark in overtime in last week’s exhibition said slowly and lowly, “Kind of upset. We’ve got to be more together. Kind of knew it was coming, like last year when we almost lost to the Indiana-Purdue team.”

Miller cranes and stares deeply into he eyes of a questioner. He speaks deliberately. His voice rumbles at a low ebb. If you could attach words to the sound of a bowling ball rolling down a lane, you’d have Miller captured.

Perhaps with the benefit of a redshirt year, he’ll prove to be quite a find for the Jackets. That’d help.

The Jackets are not likely to overwhelm on the interior this season, yet Hewitt anticipates the possibility of Miller adding some punch. He has said that Miller learns quickly and, “He had probably his best practice of the year (Monday). He could be in the starting lineup,” the coach said.

“We’re going to have to be really sound in terms of boxing out. It’s got to be rebound-by-committee. We don’t have any great individual rebounders. I think Daniel has the best chance . . . he has very good hands. With that said, if you do it right by committee, [rebounding] shouldn’t be a negative.”

Miller has gained back seven of the pounds he lost while ill, and hopes to hit 258 by some time next month. “I’ve been working out, and trying to eat a lot,” he said.

This young man is not likely to be the centerpiece of Tech’s offense very often, but he might be one of a couple key wildcards, the player who adds the most poundage in the middle.

Big Jake could be a human intangible.

Anybody seen Big Jake play? If you think you know anything about him, send info to stingdaily@gmail.com.

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