Coach Cal to 2022 five-star SF Brandon Miller: "You worked hard for this scholarship, you deserve this scholarship."

by:Jack Pilgrim05/21/21

Frankie Vision

John Calipari has shifted his focus to Kentucky’s 2022 recruiting class, setting up daily Zoom calls, extending numerous offers, and scheduling visits when in-person recruiting returns in June.

Among the high-level prospects piquing Calipari’s interest? Five-star junior Brandon Miller, who received a scholarship from Kentucky on Wednesday, just the seventh player in the class to receive an offer from the UK coaching staff. The consensus top-20 prospect joined the likes of Emoni Bates, Jalen Duren, Chris Livingston, Jaden Bradley, Skyy Clark, and Shaedon Sharpe to earn a scholarship from Calipari.

Miller, a 6-foot-7, 200-pound small forward out of Antioch, TN, averaged 23.3 points (47% 3PT), 8.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.6 blocks and 2.3 steals as a junior. It was a standout campaign that pushed him up to No. 11 overall and No. 5 at his position in the latest 247Sports player rankings, with ESPN also listing him at No. 12 overall and Rivals listing him at No. 17 overall.

Following the Kentucky offer, KSR spoke with Miller’s father, Darrell Miller Sr., about the conversation with Calipari and the UK coaching staff, the five-star forward’s interest in the program, his game, and a timetable for a decision, among other topics.

Check out the complete conversation below:

How did the meeting with Kentucky go? Were you guys expecting an offer during the call?

I guess we did. UK kind of ramped up recruiting the last couple weeks, we’ve been hearing from them pretty much every day. The coach that’s been recruiting us is Coach Chin (Coleman), he was the one recruiting us at Illinois when they gave him his offer. When he got the position at UK, he called and said he was going to pursuit Brandon at UK and he was going to wrap up the recruiting process. We’re hearing from him every day — I probably hear from him every other day, but Brandon is getting texts from him every day.

What’s the difference with Coach Coleman and Coach Antigua on staff? 

The difference that I’ve found, and I don’t know if it was even allowed for them to reach out around that time. When UK first reached out, Brandon was a freshman, so they weren’t able to be as aggressive as they are now. Then of course COVID hit and they’re trying to figure out how to have a season, do all that, so I knew it was going to slow down during that time, they were busy preparing for their season. I knew after their season was over things would start ramping back up. Coach Chin is one of those coaches that’s excited about getting Brandon. He mentioned that no matter where he went, he was going to recruit him.

What does Coach Chin like about Brandon’s game so much?

He’s always mentioned Brandon’s versatility, the things he’s been able to do with the ball and without the ball. How he can impact the game without just having control of the ball. His shot-blocking abilities, his ability to – once coached and trained – guard multiple positions.

How was John Calipari during the meeting? 

The Zoom call went really well, it was actually more of a normal conversation we were having. We were all on there, joking and laughing, cutting up, having a good time. Coach Cal just reiterated things he had touched on when we went there his freshman year. He said that, “Hey, I wouldn’t be on this call if I didn’t think you belonged here. You worked hard for this scholarship, you deserve this scholarship, there’s one here for you.”

What is Calipari’s pitch? What made him pull the trigger on the offer?

He believes he is that prototypical type of player, the kind of guy NBA teams are high on now. A player who can bring the ball up if need be, guard multiple positions if need be. (The call) was great. Coach Cal touched on him being in there and practicing with the best players, you’re going to get better by going against those guys every day.

Can you tell Calipari is motivated following Kentucky’s disappointing season in 2020-21? 

You can tell the new coaching staff, the enthusiasm they have, they’re out there trying to get their kids and they’re trying to get this program back on track. With COVID hitting and not working out during the summer, a whole lot went into that. They didn’t have the time to develop those guys off season like they would normally. Normally those guys are in the weight room during the summer, getting prepared.

How excited are you guys about in-person recruiting coming back in June?

We’re very excited about it. I love the contact and interacting with the coaches on Zoom calls, but to actually be in there and step into a dorm and see what it looks like instead of the virtual tours or the pictures they send you. To actually go in and see the size and the facilities, things like that, that’s what’s going to get Brandon really motivated to see where he might be at in a year or two, see where he’s going to be living. I’ve booked vacations before and from here, yeah that place looks great, but when you get there, you’re like, “Hmm… The food’s not working.” You know, things like that.

Have you started scheduling visits yet? Which schools are penciled in for you guys?

We’re going to schedule a date with Kentucky. We didn’t schedule a date last night, but we know it’s going to be in June when we take an official visit there. So far we’re taking an official visit to UT, those dates are June 7th and 8th. We’re also visiting Auburn, and that’s going to be that weekend before or a couple days before, I think (June) 3rd through the 4th or 5th, it’s a Thursday and Friday. Kentucky will be a weekend or two after (Tennessee). Hopefully we can try to do it during the week, that’s when the guys will be there. We watched practice when we were there Brandon’s freshman year, so we saw how Coach Cal interacted with those players, but it’ll still be good to see how he works with those guys because it’ll be a whole new crop of players.

Five visits in June, that’s a lot of traveling, but I guess you want to utilize these five visits during your junior year so if you need to re-visit or a school isn’t what you thought it was, you can take another visit during your senior year.

What are you guys looking for on these visits?

Schools that are recruiting, they’re going to have nice facilities and nice amenities, but the main thing we’re looking for are the relationships with the coaches and players. We’re family oriented, Brandon is family oriented, so him choosing a school to go to, we would like to have that family feel so it’s not such a big change when Brandon chooses a school. That coaching staff, how they feel about family and how close they are, things like that. When I talk to college coaches, I tell them, “I’ve been with Brandon this far, so I really need to feel good about the school because I’m handing him over to you so you can take over now. That’s the main thing, being comfortable with those coaches and players. It may be different because those players he sees on these visits might not be there when Brandon goes to school, but still, you know the coach’s personality and their coaching style.

Does Brandon have a timetable for a decision? 

I’m not sure, I think Brandon may try to narrow it down by early school year (in the fall). We may take these five official visits and then some unofficial visits so Brandon can get a good look at where he wants to be.

Kentucky and Tennessee have picked up a lot of buzz with Brandon. Do you think there are any early favorites or is he fairly wide open? What other schools are pushing hard?

Brandon is probably a lot more wide open, but the schools that have been actually (pushing hard), we’ve been talking with Kansas. They’re trying to set up an official visit, we’ve been talking with them. We’ve been talking with Alabama, they’re trying to set up an official visit, they’ve really ramped up.

How do you see Brandon fitting in at UK should he ultimately decide to commit?

With Kentucky, once he gets going with Coach Cal and the staff, I think his fit with them would be that small forward prototype, guard and small forward (hybrid), but still make it in there in the high post, make it in there, things like that. Brandon is a versatile player, so as long as he keeps that going, keeps working on that shot efficiency, 3-point shot efficiency, that mid-range shot, I think he’ll fit into a lot of programs.

Kentucky having its losing season last year really didn’t bother me, Kentucky is going to be Kentucky. They’re going to go after the best players and they’re going to get them. For my son to be considered one of those players that they’re going after, it’s a great feeling.

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