Catching up: Old friends Andre Miller, Alex Jensen reflect on their time at Utah under coach Rick Majerus
That’s about when Jensen would incur the wrath of the sweater-sporting savant even though it wasn’t his fault that Miller’s quiet cackling was contagious. Yes, even Jensen, so beloved by Majerus, could end up in his coach’s doghouse, and not just for laughing.
“That was the thing about Majerus — everybody had their turn of having a bad day with him being on you,” Jensen said, pondering about whether or not his coach intentionally did that as a “genius” way of team bonding. “But it brought everybody around closer together.”
A wide smile emerged on Miller’s face as he went back to those times when he was wearing the crimson and white.
“We laughed a lot,” he said.
A time of growth
The relationship between Jensen and Miller — and ensuing laughter/tongue-lashings — began in 1994.
Jensen was a freshman at the U. that fall, having just wrapped up a successful prep career at Viewmont High School where he was named Utah’s Mr. Basketball.
Miller moved to Salt Lake City from Los Angeles that same year to enroll at the university. However, the 18-year-old, who earned a 3.2 GPA at Verbum Dei High in Los Angeles, was deemed ineligible to play by the NCAA as a Prop 48 student because he’d missed one too many answers on the SAT test.
Though Miller couldn’t receive a scholarship, participate in practice and had his collegiate career put on hold, all infuriating to Majerus, he certainly didn’t stop playing basketball. Even with his new friend from Utah.
“I used to go pick him up and we’d go play in the East Millcreek League,” Jensen said. “He couldn’t come around practice. He’d come around games. I think it was good for him.”
“We played wherever. It was a lot of fun,” Miller said of his Salt Lake days. “It was the best time of my life.”
It wasn’t all basketball, either.
Jensen said a rafting trip down the Snake River by Jackson Hole, Wyo., was one of the most fun times. They also rode horses together.
“He’s from L.A. and had never done that. He loved it. He loved riding horses," Jensen said. "In fact, he got bucked off once before the draft. We went water skiing. All that stuff was new to him. It was funny to see him because he loved it.”
Still at it
Two things stood out about Miller to Jensen back in the mid-1990s: 1. “He didn’t talk much then;” and 2. “He loves playing.”
Even so, Jensen said nobody, Majerus included, would have guessed that the reserved Miller, whose game speaks louder than his words, would not only make it to the NBA but make it for so long at such a high level.
“Everybody saw a quiet kid from L.A. I don’t think anybody knew,” Jensen said. “Even when we played with him, you knew how good he was, and you felt he was underrated, (but) you still didn’t know how that would translate into professionally.”
Fifteen years later, Miller ranks ninth on the NBA’s all-time assists list with 8,077, including a league-leading 882 in 2001-02. He’s scored 15,699 points while playing for one-fifth of the league, including Cleveland, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Philadelphia, Portland, Denver Part II and Washington.
“You could put forth a good argument for the Hall of Fame,” Jensen said in a convincing tone.
"And," he added, "for one of the most underrated players ever.”
Miller turns 38 on March 19, but he isn’t done yet, which is impressive and comical to Jensen, who's at the beginning of his NBA coaching career.
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