#STINGDAILY: Old Schooled

March 11, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

It came as no surprise to those who regularly watch Daniel Miller play that Georgia Tech’s center was tabbed as a member of the ACC’s All-Defensive team Monday, and he didn’t seem taken aback, either.

That would be because it seems that nothing surprises the large junior. “Big Jake,” as his teammates have called him (moreso in the past), may have a mugshot in a modern dictionary somewhere next to the word, “nonplussed.”

Most folks take that word to mean unimpressed or indifferent, which would be a fine description of the way Miller appears – deceptively – to operate. He rarely dips below or rises above his emotional baseline. And so it was when he asked Monday about his honor. Big Jake said he found out shortly after rising from a nap.

“It got me up, got me a little excited,” he said in a nearly perfect monotone. “I told my parents, and they were excited for me. It’s just a good feeling.”

After leading the ACC in blocked shots with an overall average of 2.1 per game and anchoring the Yellow Jackets’ respectable defense, Miller – who has started all 92 games of his Tech career – has what he deserves.

He also trails point guard Mfon Udofia by just one steal (25-24) for the team lead, has altered countless shots around the goal, and is second on the team in assists. Oh, and his team-leading average of 7.3 rebounds per game ranks eighth in the ACC in conference action. he’s No. 1 on the team in assists in ACC action for good measure.

These, and other statistics, like his 9.5-point scoring average in ACC games, are not enough. His value can be as hard to decipher as that word, “nonplussed.” Most dictionaries suggest the word means confused or perplexed or something to that effect.

I’ve never heard or see the word used that way, and I’m no linguist, but it says here some dictionaries are wrong.

Likewise, there are not enough common metrics to speak fully to Miller’s true worth. Quiet though he may be in life, he’s the middle linebacker of the Jackets’ D’ both in terms of physicality and the way he calls shots.

“Not only does he protect the rim doing a very good job of blocking shots, he’s one of those guys who’s able to block shots without being out of position,” said head coach Brian Gregory. “He doesn’t put your defense at risk. He’s really good on the defensive glass as well.

“Sometimes the stats are skewed because he doesn’t always get the defensive rebound, but very rarely does he allow his man ever to get an offensive rebound. He’s really bought into . . . the concept defensively of five guys working as one.”

Miller will take his pat on the back. It came the same day that freshmen Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter Jr. were conspicuously left off the ACC’s All-Freshman squad in favor of guard Marcus Paige (who does his work right there on Tobacco Road while wearing UNC colors).

Now that seemed to leave Big Jake plussed (not really a word) or nonplussed (depending on which definition you favor). He was surprised, “that one of them wasn’t on.”

And then, he went back to his baseline. Shortly before practice, where the Jackets would begin/resume preparation for Thursday’s game against Boston College, he was psyching himself up. In Miller’s case, that’s an imperceptible process.

Hey, he doesn’t call attention to himself. There’s no need for a new dictionary to describe Miller’s approach. It’s called old school.

“Coach tells me every game, ‘It’s not going to show up in the stats but you do a great job every night,’ ” he said. “As long as it’s helping out the team . . . finally it’s come to everybody’s attention. It’s good to get it out there.”

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