Nothing has come easy for BYU center Chris Miles. Not ever.
He's the antithesis of the silver spoon athlete who's been catered to, cajoled and politicked through the system.
Back in his AAU youth basketball days, he didn't have parents who brazenly pushed a little payola toward coaches and squad organizers to advance their kids on summer tournament teams so they can receive recruiting attention. He never "moved" to better himself at a high school program, like some do.
At 6-foot-11 and 235 pounds with tremendous strength, Miles is gifted. But growing up in Provo, he had plenty of siblings achieve great things and others who require so much specialized attention that it is abundantly clear the blueprint for any success by Miles has forged a competitive spirit.
After going 2-for-9 from the line in the Jan. 27 overtime loss at Utah, Miles received high praise from Utah coach Jim Boylen after Saturday's Cougar win over the Utes in Provo. The day after the Utah loss Miles hit the gym first thing in the morning and shot 100 free throws. On Saturday? He made 5-of-6 from the charity stripe, and Dave Rose credited Miles' tough defense for limiting 7-foot-2 Luke Nevill to just nine points and no field goals in the second half of the win.
It's that kind of work that Miles has come by in his starting position at BYU.
Miles wasn't the first in his family to make a high school basketball record book. Although his games are now seen throughout the world on satellite, his older brother beat him to national and even international exposure. He has two younger siblings, now monster-sized men, who are autistic and communicate like 1- and 2-year-olds.
Miles knows how to accept humility and appreciate what's been earned.
His oldest brother, Gabe, once attempted a Utah state record 17 3-point shots on Dec. 12, 2000, against River Valley High (Ariz.), making eight of them. His eight 3-point shots for a Utah AAU team in a Las Vegas tournament set a record at the event.
His second-oldest brother, Jerome, was on national and international TV twice from San Francisco and England as a participant in Robot Wars and Battle Bots after he started making robots at the age of 11. Seen in the U.S. on Comedy Central, from age 13 through 17, Jerome won competitions against participants who earned Ph.D.s at MIT in engineering and built robots at Stanford University Medical School. Seven of the guys Jerome competed against were employed by Disney and George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic.
His stepbrother, Chris Ricks, played goalie for the independent youth soccer team the Lone Wolves and tied the record for shutouts his junior year. He currently plays rugby and has participated on Utah Valley University's team that played for a national championship.
Then come Chris Miles' younger siblings. Chris was just 4 years old when the Miles family first welcomed Ryan and later, Joey. These two brothers are autistic. When they arrived a couple of years apart, they changed everything with the Miles family.
Ryan, soon to be 20 years old, is 6-foot-5, 250 pounds (down from 327). Joey, who just turned 18, is 6-3 and at one point in his life weighed 416 pounds. Their greatest handicap is communication. Ryan's language skills are like a 2-year-old. Joey talks like he's age 1.
Chris, Jerome and Gabe grew up in a home where they chipped in and helped Joey and Ryan, doing everything from cleaning up every aspect of their daily lives to getting up and putting them on a bus for specialized schooling. These two brothers now live in a group home that was converted from the family's former southeast Provo home.
"There's no question how difficult is was to take care of Joey and Ryan," said their father, Don Miles. "All the boys stepped up. They all had to sacrifice to help."
"They are big," said Chris. "They have big bones. Joey's knee bone is twice as thick as mine. Part of this may be genetics, something related to the autism. They can be a handful in that way, especially for my mom, who was the caretaker and had them in the home for many years. When Joey's had a bad day, he can have problems and that's a challenge, especially for my mom.
"When I was on my mission and Jerome was on his mission, mom was alone with them in the house and it was a lot of work for her and a challenge. When you can't communicate with someone why it's important to do something, it is tough and it requires a lot of attention."
Since being in 24-hour care, the younger Miles brothers have barely improved to speaking in sentences, like "I have to go potty" or "I want McDonald's."
The progress in understanding autism the last 15 years has been huge, said Chris.
"The awareness has dramatically increased and so has the community support from the state and government. The number of autistic kids has been increasing and so has support. Right now, Joey and Ryan have 24-hour care, and that's what they need to stay healthy and do well."
"I think it was a good experience for me," said Chris. "Looking back, I wish I had been more aware of how much help my mom needed. My older brother helped a lot with Joey and I helped more with Ryan, who I was more naturally able to take care of.
"When I was young, I'd help out with baby-sitting. I'd hold Ryan when he was a baby. My mom tells me what I did; a lot of it I can't remember.
"I did get a sense and a taste that a family really can help each other, and I think I got a sense of how much each individual can to do to help the others grow up," Chris said. "Part of that is that I had older brothers and it was easy for me to learn to help the younger ones because of the help I received along the way."
Chris said as challenging as his family life turned out, it is nothing compared to his wife, Ashley, who also grew up in Provo.
"She lost her father when she was in the sixth grade."
Ashley Miles said her father, Kevin Brown, died at 34 when she was in sixth grade, after battling severe diabetes which forced two kidney transplants, constant dialysis and blindness.
"To me, she is an inspiration in what she went through to help her family through that," said Chris Miles. "(She) had younger brothers to help care for when her mother worked late to make ends meet."
Chris, a two-time 4A State MVP, finished his high school career at Timpview High School with nearly 300 blocks, second all-time in the state to former Emery star Shawn Bradley.
He is second the Mountain West in field-goal percentage (60.7) heading into Wednesday's game at Wyoming.
But that is the present battle.
When it comes to fighting for a spot, Chris Miles is a veteran.
And the war to succeed has been going on for a very long time.
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