UNIVERSITY OF UTAH guard Andre Miller isn't exactly a talking machine. It's safe to say he'll never have his own television show. The odds on him making a living in telemarketing are remote. Franklin-Covey won't be asking him to do motivational speeches. There's a suspicion that when the talent was handed out, Dick Vitale got all the vocals and Miller got all the skills.
But these days, Miller's game is doing all the talking necessary. He's on ESPN virtually every night since the NCAA Tournament began. He's in USA Today and the Los Angeles Times. He's playing big in the biggest of games."Miller Time" is catching on outside the WAC.
Miller, of course, has chosen a great time to get huge. The Utes are on their biggest run since 1966, the last time they went to the Final Four. And, as any news anchor can tell you, there's no better time to look good than when the cameras are rolling. Right now, Miller is coming on like Hale-Bopp - something you'll want to see, because another might not come around for 75 years. Saturday night he quietly admitted he had the performance of his life in Utah's upset win over Arizona in the Western Regional finals.
He goes strong to the hoop, rebounds exceptionally well, handles the ball, makes smart decisions and is shooting 55 percent in the playoffs. But more than that, the man has exquisite timing.
He's looking good when the big lights are up.
Miller was matched Saturday against Arizona point guard Mike Bibby, widely considered the best point guard in the West. Miller ended up with 18 points and career highs in rebounds (14) and assists (13). He also had two steals. Bibby, on the other hand, scored seven points, made three of 15 shots, and collected just one assist. One guy had a huge day, the other was AWOL.
While Miller's play has been a windfall for the Utes as they advance to the Final Four, there is a nice dividend as well: He may just be playing himself into a fat NBA contract. With all the nation watching, all the media and, most importantly, scouts from every NBA team, Miller is making a lasting impression.
Scott Layden, the Jazz's director of basketball operations, says league rules forbid him from discussing any underclassman in specific terms. Miller was a Prop. 48 recruit, and as such has been granted an extra year's eligibility. Thus, he could be back next year as a senior with the Utes, or he could opt to turn pro early, as top college players often do. But Layden does allow that any player who does well in the tournament is helping himself land a future job.
"This isn't directed directly toward Andre," he said, "but for anyone - when you play well in the NCAAs, it's very important."
Although players also must do well in pre-draft camps and during the regular season, that doesn't minimize the impact of a big showing in the postseason.
"The magnitude of NCAA Tournament games is such that it magnifies things that much more," said Layden. "There's so much at stake that when players produce under that sort of pressure, it's a remarkable thing. It sticks in most people's minds.
UCLA's Ed O'Bannon led his team to the 1995 NCAA championship and was selected No. 9 - a high pick for an average NBA player. Kentucky's Tony Delk, also a marginal talent, was taken at No. 16 after the Wildcats won the national title. Both were helped considerably by their big showings in the tournament.
Miller has produced in numerous big games this year. Though he had - by his standards - an average night against West Virginia (14 points, eight assists, two rebounds) in the third round of the NCAAs, that wasn't a game the Utes needed him to be great. Against Arkansas, they did, and he was, scoring 28 points and collecting seven rebounds and two assists. In the NCAA Tournament, he is averaging 17 points and better than six rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Miller made 10 of 12 shots, grabbed five rebounds, collected five assists and scored 24 points in Utah's nationally televised game against WAC rival New Mexico. The second time they met, he got only 14 points, but he made five of eight shots, got seven rebounds and four assists in a Utah win.
He's strong, durable and aggressive, and he knows how to play defense. Those factors alone should get him a serious look by NBA scouts.
So as the Utes continue into the Final Four, this much is clear: there are only big games remaining. Which probably means that's all there is left for Miller as well.