By Andrew Kahn

During preseason practices, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins would ask for five players for various drills and scrimmages. Among the returning starters and upperclassmen who stepped forward, there was also freshman Daxter Miles, Jr. “It got to the point where he would go out and upperclassmen would say, ‘I got it,’ and he’d say, ‘No I was here first,’” Huggins says. “He kind of willed his way into the starting lineup.” Miles has started every game for the No. 18 Mountaineers, increasing his production recently after fellow backcourt members sat out with injuries.

Miles played at Dunbar High in Baltimore for former Mountaineer Cyrus Jones and spent a year at basketball power Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass. There, he missed nearly all of the preseason workouts due to an ankle injury he suffered while making an appearance in a music video. He was often late for team meals or bus rides, which meant he got left behind a few times. “There were a lot of head scratching moments,” says Notre Dame Prep head coach Ryan Hurd. “But that’s what prep school basketball is: Helping kids understand what it means to be a player at this level.” Hurd and his staff stressed the importance of punctuality at a Division I program, but they watched Miles leave for Morgantown unsure if he’d gotten the message.

As it turns out, Miles had been listening. Following the lead of seniors Juwan Staten and Gary Browne, Miles has shown great maturity. “He’s been a model student-athlete,” says West Virginia associate head coach Larry Harrison. “He’s done very well in the classroom. He hasn’t give us any problems off the court.”

On the court, the 6’3” shooting guard has stepped up his game following injuries to Staten and Browne. Miles is averaging 7.2 points per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 34 percent from deep. In his last three games, all without the two senior guards, he’s scored 23, 15, and 11 and shot 16 of 30 from the field and 10 of 19 from three. Miles has a quick release and does a great job of elevating and squaring his body to the basket on jumpers. He hit two threes in overtime in a loss at Kansas earlier this month.

Miles has improved throughout the season, but he’s still a freshman prone to mistakes. He has 32 assists on the season and 24 turnovers. “Daxter drives you crazy sometimes, but he makes plays,” Huggins said after a win over Oklahoma State to finish the regular season.

Miles got into foul trouble early against Baylor in yesterday’s Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals, an 80-70 loss. West Virginia (23-9) is projected as a four or five seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament. Staten and Browne are expected to return, but the experience that Miles and fellow freshman guard Jevon Carter gained in their absence will serve the Mountaineers well.

Hurd watches West Virginia games on television and keeps in contact with Harrison. The Miles he sees now is not the same player he coached. “It took a process of him looking inside himself and deciding what was important and if he wanted to give the game everything he had. It’s become clear that he’s invested in his future.”

Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at andrewjkahn@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.

 

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