Betsy sniper B.J. Miller taking aim at title

By Allen LaMountain
ASST SPORTS EDITOR
awlamountain@starhq.com

   With his name already etched in the Elizabethton Cyclone record books - having tied a school record for points in a single game with 39 along side Michael Morrell and Elden Brown - senior guard / wing B.J. Miller has his eyes set on having his name in the record books one more time before he leaves.
   That place would be with the rest of his Cyclone teammates as State Champion, should Betsy be fortunate enough to get it done this season.
   "That has been the focus all season," said Miller. "To win a state championship. It's all we have talked about as a team and all our work has been toward getting there. We had a small taste last year and know how it feels to lose in a big game (sub-state) and it didn't feel good. It gave us a lot of incentive to push harder to go even farther."
   Last Friday night the Cyclones got past Watauga Conference arch-rival Sullivan Central 60-56 to secure the top spot in the District 1-2 Regional tournament.
   It was the type of high-pressure contest that can either forge the collective will of a squad or see it evaporate completely and Miller and his 'mates came through with flying colors.
   "That was a great game for us to win," Miller said. "Knowing that we had beaten them three straight this season, they were hungry for a win - especially with it being the District championship. To take their best shot and come out on top should give us a lot of confidence going into the Regional."
   Miller has been a mainstay on the floor for coach Tony Hardin's crew and has been solid all season no matter where Hardin has Miller line up.
   "Miller's versatility has been a major plus for us this season," commented Hardin. "I can line him up as a one, two or three and he can handle the assignment offensively and defensively. We had him on John LeSueur most of the fourth quarter and he shut him down."
   Miller, who came to Elizabethton as a freshman after playing at Happy Valley Middle School, has put his efforts on improving his game by becoming what coach Hardin refers to as a "gym rat."
   "Every time B.J. hits a big three or any big shot, he has practiced that shot or that situation in the gym a hundred times over," said Hardin. "I promise you, it's not by accident. He came here as a freshman with a love for the game. He needed to learn basketball skills and over his four years here he has worked hard to do that.
   "He has made himself into a good overall basketball player, and I think he would do well in college."
   A few schools have given Miller a look including King College, and Anderson College for basketball and Milligan College for baseball.
   Miller has been a standout shortstop on the EHS baseball team for two years as a starter and is known as a solid defensive player with a line drive stroke and good base stealing ability.
   He is undecided as yet which sport he would prefer to pursue at the next level but says, "I haven't made up my mind yet. I have talked to Danny Clark at Milligan and the coaches at Anderson College and King College," said Miller. "All have shown an interest but I want to keep all my options open."
   All season long Miller has come up big in tough games for Betsy, with several coaches having pointed to him as being the difference in the game.
   "Miller stuck daggers in our hearts all night," said Volunteer coach Todd Whittemore after a recent Cyclone win over the Falcons. "He can light you up in a hurry, when he gets in rhythm."
   Miller credits his father Bruce and mother Elaine with helping him develop his competitive nature saying, "They have pushed me from day one to do the right thing. My dad has taught me a lot about competitiveness and about being a man in the real world.
   "My mom is both my biggest fan and maybe my harshest critic, but every time I look at her in the stands she's smiling and always giving me support."
   Miller has logged a lot of minutes on the court - averaging nearly 30 minutes a game in a 32-minute game - as he is one of the few players Hardin leaves in the game in any situation. "That's where B.J.'s versatility comes in. He plays in control and makes such good decisions that I have a lot of trust in him."
   In addition to his court minutes Miller also produces the points, with a 14 points per game average, and is the team leader in three-point shooting as well with a better than 30 percent stroke from downtown.
   "You know what the big guy (Vince Redd) gives them," said Sullivan Central head coach Tony Vaughn earlier this season. "But when you add Miller's shooting to the mix it makes it tough to defend all their options. When he's on (his game) Elizabethton is very tough to beat."