HARTVILLE Finding senior point guard John Paul Miller hasn’t been difficult at Lake Center Christian basketball games this season.
If you happen to be at an LCC game, don’t bother trying to locate Miller on the bench or checking into the game at the scorer’s table. Averaging nearly 30 minutes game, the only place you’re likely to spot him is on the court, running the offense for the Tigers.
Since a high school basketball game consists of just 32 minutes, that means Miller racks up just about two minutes of rest per game. Despite the heavy workload, the four-year letterwinner has no complaints.
“It’ been enjoyable for me. I like to play as much of the game as possible, so even though it can be tough, I enjoy it,” Miller said, noting that playing more minutes puts a premium on conditioning. “I like to be in top shape so I can play that many minutes and not wear down.”
Having been on the varsity roster since he was a freshman, Miller has seen most any game situation that a player can experience. His catalog of experiences allows him to be a veteran leader for a team that has established itself as an annual contender in just two seasons in the Portage Trail Conference County Division.
One thing that hasn’t changed during Miller’s four seasons with LCC is the size disadvantage he often faces against opponents. As a freshman, he was listed at 5-foot-4. He’s added about six inches to that height over the course of his high school career, but even at a listed height of 5-foot-10, he’s still shorter than many opposing guards.
Having lived with that height deficit ever since he began playing basketball in elementary school, Miller shrugs off any suggestion that his size is a drawback.
“I’ve always been the smallest guy on the court and that’s never been something new for me,” Miller said. “I’ve always had that height disadvantage, so it’s not a big deal.”
Short or not, Miller has been one of the Tigers’ best rebounders this season. Along with a team-high scoring average of 23 points per game, he’s third on the team in rebounds at 5.2 per contest. He also leads LCC in assists (3.5 per game) and steals (1.6), showing off an all-around game that has developed over the course of his varsity career.
“This year, my overall stats have jumped up a lot more. I’ve always been good rebounder, but I haven’t put up that big of rebounding stats,” he said. “I’m just looking to help my team in all areas, not just scoring.”
As his scoring numbers have risen this season, Miller has seen defenses focus more on stopping him and that has opened up passing lanes. Players like forward Jacob Ickes (10.1 ppg), Payton Triplett (9.4) and Jared Ritenour (7.4) have seen the residual benefits of defenses gearing up to stop Miller and with four capable scorers, LCC has different options if it’s first or second scoring option isn’t clicking on a given night.
The season also produced a big milestone in January, when Miller tallied his 1,000th career point in a three-point win over East Canton. Fittingly, the landmark points came late in the game with the Tigers clinging to a small lead and in need of every point they could get. Miller was fouled, stepped to the line and calmly sank his first shot, after which the school stopped the game to recognize the feat.
Undeterred by the interruption, Miller sank the second free throw for career point 1,001 and more importantly, an insurance point to extend his team’s lead to two possessions. As the season winds down and LCC tries to extend its year for as long as possible, Miller’s message to his younger teammates is simple. He tells them to treat tournament games like any other game, but also to realize that until you win the game at hand, there’s no need to worry about what’s next.
As for his own approach and knowing as a point guard when to shoot and when to pass, the best approach is to not overanalyze.
“I just kind of play on instinct. I don’t like to think too much while I play and really, I just go with my instinct,” Miller said. “Sometimes it’s tough to decide when to pull it out or when to attack, but I just lean on my instincts.”
His instincts have put him in a key role for a team that enters the Barberton Division IV district bracket tonight at 7 p.m. against Northeast Ohio Preportory as the fourth seed and with hopes of making a run for a district title. However long the Tigers’ tournament run goes, expect Miller to be in the thick of it, spending almost every minute of each game in the middle of the action and not taking much time to rest.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB