Zach Miller signing to NIU basketball gives NIU a passing threat

By Chris Dertz

Though the 2010 basketball season is barely under way, NIU head coach Ricardo Patton and his staff have already begun looking forward to 2011.

At the beginning of November, the Huskies signed two players early on in 6-foot-4-inch wing DeAndre Barnette from Jackson, Tenn. and added some local flavor with Glenbard East point guard Zach Miller.

While Barnette will help fill in holes left by graduating seniors Xavier Silas, Michael Patton and Jeremy Landers, Miller could step in immediately and provide NIU with something it doesn’t have: a distributing point guard.

“He’s the consummate point guard,” said Joe Henricksen, of City/Suburban Hoops Report. “He may not be the biggest or the quickest, but his intangibles and basketball IQ help make up for any deficiencies he has.”

Miller, who is listed at 5 feet 9 inches, can also knock down three-pointers at a high percentage, but it’s his ability to distribute the ball that makes him dangerous.

Miller averaged 14.1 points, 3.1 steals and 7.2 assists per game during his junior year at Glenbard East.

This production caused NIU assistant coach Todd Townsend to take notice during Glenbard East’s run to a sectional final last season.

Townsend made the initial contact with Miller, and was able to establish a positive relationship with the point guard early on.

“I met Coach Townsend when he came and watched me practice during March, during our playoff run,” Miller said. “He just seemed not like a coach, but almost more like a friend who you could talk to about anything with. When he called, he didn’t just say stuff that coaches are supposed to say, he just talked with me. I feel like I have a really good bond with him.”

What Townsend saw in Miller wasn’t exclusive to him, either. While his junior-year statistics speak for themselves, the people who are around Miller every day see his potential too.

“He’s the best passer I’ve ever seen in 24 years,” said Scott Miller, Zach’s father and Glenbard East head coach. “The [Chicago] Sun-Times listed him as the best passer in the state, and I believe that. He’s got an uncanny ability to not only not turn the ball over, but find the open guy.”

Both Zach and his father wanted to get the signing out of the way early, so that Zach could focus on his senior season of basketball.

When the Millers met Patton for the first time, it was the head coach’s demeanor and dedication to Zach throughout the process that helped them commit to NIU.

And with the amount of family that the Millers have in the DeKalb area, both Zach and Scott called NIU “the perfect fit.”

Distance, however, wasn’t the only factor.

“We actually felt that there was a great opportunity for playing time, especially early in his career,” Scott said. “I think [NIU point guard] Kyree Jones is a very talented kid, and I think he’s also a kid that could play [shooting guard], and I think he could play with Zach.”

And while Zach might see the court early if Jones moves over to the two-spot, guaranteed playing time is the last thing that he’s looking for.

“I don’t want anything to be given to me when I go there,” Zach said. “I don’t like to be guaranteed a starting spot, like most kids want. I want to earn my way.”

While Miller still has a season of basketball at Glenbard East to focus on, he’s not about to shy away from how important the moment he signed his letter of intent was.

“It was a little surreal when we actually were able to sign on the dotted line,” his father added. “His dream’s kind of come true here.”