Since last June, NIU basketball has seen seven of its players leave the program.
Recently, things have been stirring up again in the men’s basketball program, as freshman Zach Miller has decided to leave the team.
Zach’s father, Scott Miller, head men’s basketball coach at Glenbard East High School for the last 25 years and also a member of the All-State Board for the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, said Zach’s reason for leaving was simple; he was mistreated by and no longer trusted head basketball coach, Mark Montgomery.
Scott said in a meeting after spring break, Montgomery told Zach, “You’re not welcome back, and that you don’t have a scholarship.”
Scott said NIU Athletic Director Jeff Compher told Montgomery he couldn’t take away Zach’s scholarship, and he was still a part of the team. Compher apologized to the Millers for how Montgomery treated them, and Montgomery later apologized as well, Scott said.
Despite the apologies, Zach decided he wanted to leave NIU and as of Tuesday, he committed to Hillsdale, a D-II school, to play basketball.
“We played it off as the trust has been broken,” Scott said. “And when you break that trust, its hard to go back, and at that point, there was no way that we could trust Mark Montgomery ever again.”
Compher released a statement saying himself and the athletic administration met with Zach and his family multiple occasions and he still remains on scholarship at NIU.
“This is a situation that coach Montgomery and I have been dealing with for the past several weeks,” Compher said in a statement Wednesday. “Our basketball staff and members of our athletics administration, myself included, have met with Zach and his parents on multiple occasions. Zach remains on scholarship at NIU, and his status as a scholarship student-athlete and a member of the basketball team going forward was secure. Since receiving his request for release, our coaching staff has made calls to help Zach find another school. We wish Zach nothing but the best in the future.”
Montgomery also thanked Zach for his contribution to the team in a statement released Wednesday.
“Zach has made the decision to transfer and continue his playing career elsewhere,” Montgomery said in the statement. “I want to thank him for his contribution to the program this past year. Zach is a fine young man with a bright future, and I wish him nothing but success going forward.”
Scott said a reason why Montgomery wanted Zach off the team was to open up a scholarship spot because Montgomery was trying to make room for two point guards to bring in as transfer students from other schools. Scott added Montgomery said that Zach was not his own recruit, and it was not fair for him to have to keep Zach.
“From my perspective, as a coach, that’s the disturbing part, when you have a kid that’s doing all of the right things, and they’re the ones that aren’t asked to come back,” Scott said.
Zach declined to comment on the situation, but confirmed all information provided by Scott was accurate.
In his statement, Montgomery also noted Stian Berg and Jeremiah Jackson are also exploring their options.
“Stian and Jeremiah have each worked hard as walk-ons in our program,” Montgomery stated. “They both expressed interest in exploring scholarship opportunities elsewhere and we have granted them the ability to explore those options.”