Q+A: Darius Miller
Kentucky’s senior captain reflects on an incredible regular season and managing expectations for March.
by Eddie Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
“It still stings.”
For Darius Miller, Kentucky’s Final Four loss to UConn is still as sharp in his mind today as it was 11 months ago. One-point was all that separated a Kentucky Wildcats team from playing for college basketball’s biggest prize. Losing to the eventual National Champs doesn’t provide solace for Miller, though.
This current group of ‘Cats features holdovers like Miller, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones, along with a new crop of freshman phenoms like Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
At 30-1, the sky is the limit for coach John Calipari’s squad.
SLAMonline had the chance to chop it up with Darius as the WIldcats began preparing for the SEC Tournament in New Orleans that begins on Thursday. Kentucky enters the tournament with an unblemished 16-0 conference record and the nation’s No. 1 ranking.
SLAM: Talk about the progress Kentucky has made this regular season?
Darius Miller: Things have gone quite well, we finished No. 1 in the country through our regular season. We’ve improved in a variety of areas and we continue to take things one game at a time. If we continue at this rate, we have a great shot at winning the championship.
SLAM: How does Coach Calipari look to you as a leader on this team full of freshmen?
DM: He points me in certain directions depending on what coach needs me to do for the team. Whatever he needs me to do I’m down for it, because ultimately it’s about winning as a team.
SLAM: How much do you guys talk about last year’s Final Four run, before ultimately losing to UConn?
DM: We talk about it a lot, it was a tough loss for us and we felt like we had a legitimate shot at winning the National Championship. We understand that it’s extremely tough to do—to win a title—and being that close is tough. It lingers in the back of your mind, definitely. We’re not trying to experience that feeling again this season.
SLAM: Talk about how this current class of freshman has changed since arriving on campus to now.
DM: They have all become better players, they have a much better understanding of the system, and they’re much more comfortable playing in this atmosphere. Plus, they’re good people—no egos, easy to get along with. We’ve grown extremely close as a group and it’s definitely made us a better team.
SLAM: Talk about the performance of Anthony Davis this season. Did you expect this type of performance when he first got here?
DM: He still surprises me even now, with the things that he’s doing. I’ve been fortunate to play with a ton of great players here in Kentucky, but I’ve never seen anyone dominate the way he does on the defensive end. I knew he’d be good, but not this good.
SLAM: What does it mean to you to finish your senior year undefeated in the regular season in the SEC?
DM: It means a lot to me, because this is my last time to do it. Finishing undefeated in the SEC, with the type of teams that are in this conference is a big deal. For us to do that, with the group of young guys that we have on this team, it means a lot.
SLAM: You’ve rocked the LeBron 9s, the KD IVs and the Cool Grey XIs this season. What’s your favorite shoe that you’ve rocked this year?
DM: I liked the KDs because of how light they are, and that helps me for when I’m on the court. For sheer comfort, I really like the Jordan Cool Greys.
SLAM: How are you guys going to prepare for Selection Sunday?
DM: We’ll head over to coach’s house, he’ll order some food and we’ll all watch the show together. We’ll have some time to discuss the future matchups and begin focusing on making that journey.
SLAM: What’s the one thing you would tell your teammates to prepare them for March Madness?
DM: The biggest thing is realizing the moment and recognizing the opportunity that’s in front of us. This opportunity doesn’t come around all the time, and we have the chance to fully take advantage of it. Let’s go win it.
Eddie Maisonet is the Editor-In-Chief of The Sportsfan Journal and regular contributor to SLAMonline.