PISCATAWAY - Rutgers basketball has had a Jekyll and Hyde season thus far, and no one on the team has embodied that character more than Dane Miller.
One night he is the most dominant player on the court, and the next he is a non-factor.
When he is the former, his team success is much greater. Miller had such a performance against No. 10 Florida only to be overshadowed by Eli Carter’s 31 points. But he followed it up with disappearing acts the next two games — both losses — including playing only a minute in the second half against West Virginia.
“It’s a struggle because that's kind of his personality — his laid back personality,” head coach Mike Rice said. “Wait to let things happen to him and that doesn’t work very well in the Big East.”
But why does his off the court persona carry onto the court? It’s a question no one knows the answer to. Not his coach, not his teammates and not even Miller himself.
After finishing in second place in the Big East Rookie of the Year Award as a freshman, the sky was the limit for Miller. The 6-foot-6 wing showed the potential to not only make an All-Big East team, but be in the running for Big East Player of the Year.
And some nights he still shows that form, but others he’s not even a shell of that.
“I think me having a real good team that I have now sometimes I don’t have to [be the guy] and I find myself giving guys the ball more and just trying to create for others rather than create for myself so I may turn down a couple shots that I know I can make and try and get guys a shot instead of just being aggressive,” Miller said. “So the main thing in my vocabulary is just being aggressive.”
It’s evident Miller knows what he has to do. And he knows he has to do it on a consistent basis.
So why is he so inconsistent?
“If I knew that, I’d be rich,” Miller said. “It’s just one of the things staying consistent with my energy. Being confident and being aggressive.”
While Rice said Miller has shown confidence and assertiveness these last couple of days in practice, the head coach is still weary of what’s to come against No. 8 UConn.
“He had one of his top ten practices before West Virginia and he laid an egg, so it is what it is,” Rice said. “You got to go and now do it in practice every day and in the games.”
One way to get Miller to do it in games is to get him involved from the opening tip.
"If Dane gets going early in the game then that translates to him being much more productive throughout the game,” Austin Johnson said. “So I feel like it’s up to us, to get him going earlier on in the game.”
That’s not as easy as it sounds. As good as Miller is as a slasher that can get to the rim, his best skill is getting others involved. He’s is an exceptional passer who likes to set up his teamates rather than take the shot himself. And now he’s surrounded by more talent — albeit young — than he’s ever had.
“One thing I was taught was never come out and be too selfish,” Miller said. “Because the more selfish you are as a person on the court, the more trust you lose in your teammates and the less chance you have of winning the game.”
Which puts the Rochester native in a predicament. He needs be more selfish for the betterment of his team. They need Miller to be locked in every night and fill up the stat sheet.
He realizes this. And when talking about becoming a bit more selfish of a player, he seems to be embracing it begrudgingly and it’s clearly something he’s having trouble adjusting to.
Said Rice: “Time is running out for him and time is running out for our team.”