Miller time?

Dwight Miller

You might see him posting up inside or unloading from outside. You might see him blocking a shot near the basket or shadowing a guard near the 3-point arc. You might see him making an outlet pass to start a fast break or making a dunk to finish one.

Tennessee fans are liable to see Dwight Miller do just about anything on the basketball floor ... except smile. Though good natured off the court, he is downright surly when he's between the lines.

"I have a chip on my shoulder that I carry every day," he said. "That makes me want to go out there and win the game so much that whenever I go up against an opponent there's nothing that can stop me. That's what I bring to the table."

Miller also brings a 6-foot-8, 240-pound frame to the table. Despite his heft, he is blessed with the agility to defend on the perimeter and the touch to step outside and nail the occasional 3-pointer. He didn't launch any 3s in Wednesday night's 85-62 defeat of Louisiana-Monroe but he hit 3 of 4 shots en route producing 7 points and 6 rebounds in 15 quality minutes. If you project those numbers over a 30-minute starting role he would finish with 14 points and 12 rebounds ... a good night by just about anyone's standards.

Asked what considers his strengths, he replied: "Defending guys in the post, defending guys on the perimeter, rebounding. I feel I can bring a lot to the table but those are the most important things."

Despite solid numbers in Wednesday's game, Miller was only mildly pleased with the performance.

"I'm always my worst critic," he said with a shrug. "That's what everybody's always told me. You always feel like you could do better but I feel this was a good starting point. This was something to build on and continue to get better as the season progresses, so I can contribute more to my team the next game and the next game and the next game."

On a night when veterans Kenny Hall (1 for 5) and Renaldo Woolridge (0 for 4) struggled to make baskets, Miller provided a spark while splitting time between center and power forward. Tennessee's head coach found that encouraging.

"I thought Dwight gave us some key minutes coming off the bench," Cuonzo Martin said. "He played with a level of confidence, getting the ball inside and making moves one-on-one. They (Warhawks) did a good job of really clamping down, but he was making quick moves to the basket, and I thought that part was good."

Originally from Nassau, Bahamas, Miller didn't play organized basketball until he was 15 years old. Moving to the U.S., he attended St. Pius X High School in Houston, Texas, where he was rated the nation's No. 65 prospect by HoopScoop as a senior. After two forgettable years (one redshirting) at the University of Pittsburgh, he spent 2010-11 at Midland (Texas) Community College. As unpleasant as his days at Pitt were, he is convinced he grew from the adversity.

"Personally, I really feel my biggest step is to see opposition, handle it and get positive results out of it," he said. "That's a major step I've made since my freshman year of college. Obviously, at my previous school I didn't play as much as I would've liked, so I transferred. That's the lesson I've learned and a lesson that is going to help me right now."

Now that he has learned to handle adversity, Miller wants to continue learning the nuances of big-time basketball. His development is still in its infancy, and he realizes as much.

"My next step is to get better, as far as learning the game," he said. "That's something I work on daily — trying to be a student of the game — because I started off later than most guys did. That's the biggest thing for me ... that and having that consistency from night to night."

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