SALT LAKE CITY — As the 7- and 8-year-olds scurried into the Huntsman Center on Monday morning, the youngsters were greeted by a 30-something guy with long curly hair, a wispy goatee, wearing a gray Utah basketball T-shirt.
Most of the kids probably didn't know Andre Miller, whose No. 24 jersey hangs in the rafters of the 40-year-old arena. The NBA star was there to greet the youngsters as they arrived at one of the sessions of the annual Utah basketball camp. A few hours later, Miller was back on duty welcoming older kids arriving for the afternoon session.
"It's all about helping the kids," Miller said. "I try to do as much as I can."
Miller, an 11-year veteran of the NBA who graduated from Utah in 1999, is spending the week helping with Utah coach Jim Boylen's basketball camps. Miller brought his 10-year-old son, Duane, along with a cousin and two friends from L.A. and their two kids.
"I'm hanging around and having a little fun," Miller said. "It's a good opportunity to come and participate in the camp."
Miller said he has gotten to know Boylen "pretty good" over the past couple of years. Boylen said he didn't know Miller before coming to Utah, although he knew him as a tough player to game plan for when he helped coach the Houston Rockets.
"I've always admired his competitiveness and toughness, and I know he's a great Ute," Boylen said. "He has really embraced our program. Obviously he represents the program in the correct way, and he's been great to have around. He wants to come and loves being a part of it."
Miller hasn't changed a whole lot since his days at Utah when a dozen years ago he led the Utes to within a hair of the NCAA championship. He's still soft-spoken and unassuming. You'd never know he was an NBA star who makes millions of dollars a year.
When asked if the youngsters knew who he was, he shrugged and said, "No, not really. That's a good thing."
They'll get to know him a little better this afternoon when he addresses a large group of campers, including those coming for the overnight camp.
And what will he tell the youngsters?
"We'll just horse around and have an open-talk dialogue," he said.
Besides wanting to help out a few hundred kids who attend the camps, Miller wanted to help out his son, who lives in Arizona, as well as his friends from high school and their kids.
"The kids don't get the opportunities to get out and travel and see things," he said. "They have a chance to come here and interact with other kids."24 comments on this story
Miller started his career in Cleveland and was traded to the L.A. Clippers before signing the following year with Denver. After four years in Denver, he was traded to Philadelphia and last year signed a three-year deal with Portland.
"I'm a drifter, I'm all over the place," Miller said when asked what he calls home.
Miller, an ironman who has incredibly missed just five games in 11 seasons while starting 834 of 897 games, said his goal is to play four more years in the NBA before retiring.
When asked if he might consider coming back to Utah to live, Miller replied, "That's a thought. That would be good. Being connected to the university is a great thing for me."