Southside’s Donshae Miller eyes a milestone

Published 5:36 pm Wednesday, January 14, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS ON THE BRINK: Southside’s Donshae Miller dribbles up the court in a game versus Jones Senior this season. Miller sits just 41 points away from 1,000 for his career.

ON THE BRINK: Southside’s Donshae Miller dribbles up the court in a game versus Jones Senior this season. Miller sits just 41 points away from 1,000 for his career.

CHOCOWINITY — Height has always been the most valuable physical attribute for basketball coaches at every level. Among other things, it’s why 6-foot-8 Northside center Edrice Adebayo has garnered national attention and quickly become one of North Carolina’s most sought-after collegiate prospects.

But the player who’s been considered Beaufort County’s No. 2 for the last few seasons is listed at a generous 5-foot-9. His accomplishments, however, are hardly small.

Southside senior Donshae Miller is 41 points away from reaching the 1,000 mark for his career. Since being elevated to varsity in the playoffs as a freshman, Miller has provided the Southside Seahawks with leadership, shot-making ability and, above all else, consistency from the point guard position.

“He’s the one you want to have the ball at the end of the game, whether he’s shooting a shot or a free throw,” said head coach Sean White. “To tell you the truth, any time with the game on the line and we need a great shot, 90 percent of the time it’s going to be in his hands. And everyone is expecting that, which can be a bad thing.”

Miller came to Southside in 2011 as an undersized guard with raw basketball talent and natural court vision. Along with former teammate Isaiah Moore, Miller navigated the jayvee team to a third-place finish in the Four Rivers conference and, due to an injury, earned the only call-up to varsity for the playoffs. Southside fell to Plymouth, 59-46, in the first round and Miller scored just one point, a free throw he hit after being subbed into the game in the final minutes, but he would solidify a spot on the varsity team the following year.

“Based on the offense we run, a variation of that dribble-drive like Kentucky and Memphis run, he’s a great ball handler and because he’s small, he can weave through guys in the lane,” White said. “He just has a great shot. He can throw up the ugliest looking thing and it has so much arch on it you think it’s going over the backboard, but then it drops in. That’s just the way he’s been shooting for the last four years.”

Miller made an immediate impact his sophomore year, averaging 12.8 points, three rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game, as the Seahawks improved by nine wins and defeated Columbia in the first round of the playoffs.

White credits his early success to a multifaceted approach to the game that defies his body type. Despite being 5-9, Miller is habitually among his team’s leading rebounders, which can be attributed to hardnosed play and basketball intelligence — simply being in the right place at the right time.

Miller’s first true test came in 2014 when the Seahawks suffered a series of crippling early season injuries that limited the frontcourt’s production and placed much of the scoring burden on their junior point guard’s shoulders.

“With Isaiah (Moore) being out, he was the go-to guy, definitely,” White said. “He was the one who kept us in a lot of games. He was the only one in double figures. He was a big part of the team, even after Isaiah came back.”

Without Moore in the frontcourt, Miller assumed a new role. He notched double-digit scoring in 25 of the team’s 26 games that season, averaging nearly 19 points, and led his team in assists and steals, while also averaging 5.7 rebounds per game.

The team went 4-5 in out-of-conference play leading up to a grueling slate of Coastal Plains Conference games against top-notch opponents like East Carteret, Pamlico County and rival Northside.

On Jan. 24, in a game that would come to define his high school career, Miller went toe-to-toe with Adebayo and the Panthers. Down four points with less than 20 seconds remaining, Miller hit a jumper from half court to narrow the deficit to one point. And after Adebayo went 1-for-2 from the line, Miller again pulled up from half court at the buzzer and drained what looked like the game-winning shot, but it came just half a second late, as Northside went on to win, 67-65. Despite the loss, Miller outplayed the county’s top player with 37 points, four rebounds, four steals.

In the playoffs, Miller scored a game-high 26 points en route to a 80-69 upset of Northampton County, the No. 3 seed, before Southside eventually fell to Pamlico County in the second round.

“A lot of times you think your point guard is just the floor general who runs the offense, but he opens up things,” White said. “He plays the point guard position, but he’s more than a point guard and his stats show that.”

White’s go-to floor general has taken on a bit of a different role this season. Senior Rashaun Moore has fully developed into a scorer, while Miller has transformed into more of a game manager, working his teammates into the motion offense. The result has been the best start for Southside in almost a decade at 8-2 (3-0 EPC). In 10 games this season, Miller is averaging 13.4 points, 3.2 assists, four rebounds and 3.5 steals. If he continues on this pace, he’s projected to break the 1,000-point mark at home against, fittingly, the Northside Panthers.