Brandon Miller: What makes a superstar?

Mathey Gibson, Staff Reporter

There are two sides to Brandon Miller’s story. 

There’s the side that the world is seeing — the NBA range pull up threes, the highlight tomahawk dunks, the superhuman court vision, the God-given athleticism. The side of a freshman who’s taken the college basketball universe by storm while averaging a hearty 19.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc a stat line that’s helped firmly cement his place atop draft boards across the country. 

Then, there’s the side that few have seen, but one we’re just now learning about. The quiet kid who spent countless hours training with his father, Darrell Sr., and siblings Darrell Jr. and Britany. The boy who was once thought to be a baseball prodigy with an impressive pitching arsenal, yet found his calling on the hardwood. 

While Miller’s ascension to stardom came rather quickly, the tight-knit family who raised him always knew there was something special about that wiry, competitive kid from Antioch, Tennessee. 

Don’t be fooled the Miller family’s reputation as athletes didn’t begin with Brandon. Darrell Jr., his older brother, was a standout forward at Fisk University in Nashville before playing overseas. Britany, his older sister, is a junior forward at Cumberland University. His father, Darrell Sr., was a tight end at Alabama under head coach Gene Stallings in the 1990s. 

Early on, it was clear that the baby of the family, Brandon, might just top them all. 

“He was really athletic at a young age,” Miller Sr. said. “There was one time, he was in third grade playing a basketball game, he was making these bounce passes, scoring […] he was doing things I thought someone that age shouldn’t be doing on a basketball court.” 

For Miller, hoop dreams weren’t always at the forefront of his athletic adventures, as the SEC freshman of the year frontrunner excelled not just on the court, but on the diamond. 

“I thought baseball was going to be his sport,” Miller Sr. said. “He could throw. Fastball, knuckleball, curveball, all of that. It was unbelievable what he could throw. I was like, man, he’s probably going to be a baseball player.” 

Even in middle school, Miller’s prowess on the mound earned the attention of onlookers. 

“He may have been 12 years old,” Miller Sr. said, “but one of the umpires who played baseball at Middle Tennessee State University, was like ‘Hey, I know your kid is young, but I’m going to talk to the coach there, he has to keep an eye on this kid,’ that’s why I always thought baseball was going to be it for him.” 

Standing at 6-foot-9, it’s not hard to picture Miller, in an alternate reality, striking fear into every batter who stepped in the box against him. While it’s fun to use our imagination, we don’t have to visualize the killer instinct Miller is putting on display in Tuscaloosa. It’s real, and the freshman forward wears that fearlessness on his sleeves. 

“It comes from his siblings,” Miller Sr. said. “Brandon was always competitive because being the youngest, he had to do the most to try to win […] everybody in the family is competitive, we’re not just going to let you win.” 

With his father being a Crimson Tide legacy, playing in front of the Alabama faithful means a little more to Miller than the average player. 

“He grew up an Alabama football fan, for sure.” Miller Sr. said. “We actually took a visit, and this was with other basketball players, and usually when you’re there you watch the first half, but he was the only one that was focused on the game. He wanted to stay for the whole game.” 

As Miller makes a name for himself at the capstone, his laidback, easy-going personality off of the court continues to brighten the lives of those around him a sentiment that’s been attached to his character long before arriving at Coleman Coliseum. 

“As a kid, he was quiet,” Miller Sr. said. “He stayed to himself. I mean, he was like that all throughout high school. […] but he always had that personality that draws you towards him. Once you get to know him, you’re like, ‘man, this dude is funny,’ and you see all of the other traits that come out in him. You just have to put the work in to get to know Brandon first.” 

Before bursting onto the national scene at Alabama, Miller was a standout at Cane Ridge High School in Antioch being named a 2022 McDonald’s All-American after posting 26.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game as a senior for the Ravens. 

“He never carried himself like he was better than everybody,” Cane Ridge head coach Marlin Simms said. “It’s not easy to be that way at a public high school. Brandon was just a regular kid, a student that enjoyed regular things. He loved playing video games, hanging with his friends, and playing basketball. He was just a good kid.” 

It was there in the halls of Cane Ridge where Miller truly found himself battling through the early precautions of COVID-19 and becoming one of the nation’s top-ranked prospects through hard work and continued discipline. 

“He really started to realize how great he could be,” Simms said. “Where some kids I think it hurt, COVID helped Brandon. He was able to take virtual classes but be in the gym a lot, too. Through COVID, Brandon was able to get up in the morning, get a workout, go to classes, get in another workout, go to the weight room, whatever. During that process, I think Brandon fell in love with the game of basketball.” 

While Miller could’ve easily transferred to a basketball-centric prep school, the Naismith Award Watchlist nominee and his family chose to stay put at their hometown stomping grounds in Middle Tennessee. 

“We thought about it,” Miller Sr. said. “Prep school, it really is great for some kids, but I just thought that the focus is strictly on basketball, weight rooms, nutrition, things like that […] I wanted Brandon to be more of a kid, fall in love with the sport, enjoy playing it, not be so serious right now at that time that’s why we didn’t send him.” 

A projected lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Miller’s stock only continues to rise thanks in part to his lethal shooting ability a wrinkle to his game that’s only come in recent years. 

“He really got in the gym and worked on it,” Simms said. “That’s something he focused on being a really good shooter, being able to shoot it with range. Anytime you can see a kid, or someone developing a skill they probably weren’t great at one point, and it develops because of hard work, I think those are the things we truly get excited about.” 

Even through a firestorm of praise from scouts, pundits and basketball analysts everywhere, and as the 20-year old superstar is met with endless scores of fans scrapping for photos and autographs after each game, one truth continues to endure – Brandon Miller will never change. 

“I just want people to realize, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, I believe Brandon is a better person than he is a basketball player,” Simms said. “I’m truly excited to be a part of the process and see what Brandon is becoming.” 

From the rolling hills of Tennessee to the Druid City, Miller’s journey to Alabama has been built on the golden rule’s backbone intertwined with a relentless work ethic and family support system built to last. 

“I’m very proud,” Miller Sr. said. “but the message will always be that you’re not done yet. Keep working hard we’re not finished.” 

If Brandon Miller’s basketball career were a book, we’re merely on chapter one. Every day starts a new page in his story — a story that’s yet to be written, but one that appears destined for greatness.  

And man, oh man, is college basketball lucky enough to be a witness.  

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]