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Q&A: Brandon Miller's father breaks down official visit to Kentucky with KSR

Jack Pilgrim06/28/21


Article written by:On3 imageJack Pilgrim
Brandon Miller
IG: @brandmillerr
[caption id="attachment_357453" align="alignnone" width="982"] IG: @brandmillerr[/caption] Kentucky's run of hosting high-profile visitors continued this past weekend when 2022 five-star wing Brandon Miller made the trip to Lexington, his final official of the summer. 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. 10 overall and No. 6 at his position in the latest Rivals player rankings, with 247Sports also listing him at No. 11 overall and ESPN listing him at No. 12 overall. The five-star prospect and his family scheduled the trip after receiving an offer from Kentucky back in May, just the ninth player in the class to earn a scholarship. The consensus top-15 prospect joined the likes of Emoni Bates, Jalen Duren, Chris Livingston, Jaden Bradley, Skyy Clark, Shaedon Sharpe, Dereck Lively and Keyonte George to earn a scholarship from Calipari. Following the official visit, KSR spoke with Miller’s father, Darrell Miller Sr., about his trip to Lexington, watching practice, NIL opportunities and a timetable for a decision, among other topics. Check out the complete conversation below:
Last time we talked you were just in the process of scheduling visits, hadn’t gone anywhere yet. First off, what’s it like just being back on college campuses and being done with Zoom meetings as the only method of communication? It’s been great to be able to go on trips where Brandon is physically able to take a tour of campus and see where his living quarters could be, talk face-to-face with coaches. It’s been great. A lot of times with Zoom meetings, it’s always a scheduled time limit, so we can only have an hour meeting or hour and a half meeting. There, there’s no scheduled time when you’re talking to someone face-to-face. Now, we’re able to discuss things, joke, have fun, get everything out, and that’s it. We can ask questions and see how that person reacts to the question you ask, all of that. How did things go in Lexington? What were the family’s overall impressions of the program? I was very impressed. It’s UK, so when everyone hears UK, there’s already an expectation there. Even me knowing the expectation, I was still impressed when we went there. It was family-oriented, Coach Cal is family-oriented. We had dinner at his house, sat down and talked to his wife, she talked to us about other players that had come. And it wasn’t just us, it was the whole basketball team there. She has a relationship with those guys, which is really great. With us, we’re only three and a half hours away from Lexington, but all the kids – and I don’t know their backgrounds and where they come from. I know one, Oscar (Tshiebwe), he’s from the Congo and he hasn’t been home in six years. To be able to go to a home and sit down and have dinner at a table with your brothers, that family atmosphere, it speaks volumes Do you think there’s more of an emphasis on team bonding after the year they had and all they had to overcome before? The thing was, it really wasn’t a vibe like he was just doing it for us. It felt like it was something he had always done, but because of COVID, he wasn’t able to do it. It was pretty automatic. I think that’s what hurt the team last year because they weren’t able to have that brotherhood bond. I know here – and I’m sure it was like this there – you go and eat a box lunch, go back to your room, and that’s it. For them to be there and sit at the table, talk to one another, talk about everything other than basketball, it’s a bond those guys have. I know that was a big problem for them last year. Walk me through an official visit to Kentucky. What did you all do each day? We arrived there around 1 o’clock, went to a restaurant to eat lunch, I think it was called Carson’s. One of the coaches picked us up, Coach Chin, but when we went to the restaurant, all of the other coaches were there and Coach Cal came shortly after. We were sitting at the table, just talking about boxing, UFC, everything but basketball pretty much. After that, we toured the facility so we could see all of that. We toured the athletic facility Saturday and then toured the campus on Sunday, the campus, the dorm, student center, stuff like that. We were able to sit down and actually watch practice. Watched practice, then went up to Coach Cal’s office for a film breakdown. As practice was going on, Coach Cal would come over and explain to us why he’s doing this drill, why he’s doing that drill, what he’s developing as he was doing those drills for those kids. We went up in the office for a film breakdown, where you could see the things he worked on in practice, the guys doing it against other schools. Coach Cal explained to us how Brandon would fit with all of it, how he would fit into his scheme. It was great how he was breaking everything down, it was a really good visit. What’s the difference between campus and the facilities now compared to your last time in Lexington?  They’ve been doing all the remodeling – I think the Lodge is actually scheduled to be remodeled again. What separated the official visit from the unofficial visit was that we were able to spend personal time with Coach Cal. During his unofficial visit, you really can’t spend that much time with him. When we were on the unofficial, there were other kids there on their official visits, so you didn’t have that personal time. That’s what stood out with both visits. On the unofficial, we did the campus tour, but everything this time seemed new. When we did a tour of Rupp Arena (last time), everything was still being remodeled. Now, the interior part is done, so we got to see all the new stuff. It was really nice. What was it like seeing practice in person? What were your impressions of the team? I could see how those guys have developed physically from when I saw them the first time. It wasn’t all of them, but a couple of them were there during our unofficial. I could see how their body had changed in that short span. One of the main things we look for when choosing a college is that family environment, that home away from home, and trust. We’re sending our child away, so we want someone who is going to watch out for our child and shares the same values we have. The other thing is player development. Like most kids, Brandon’s goal is to play in the NBA, and in order to do that, you have to have player development. He has to get better not only in his game, but physically. I saw that in those kids. Everyone you talk to inside the program says you can feel the change in vibe and energy following the additions of Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman. Did you get that sense on the visit? You can feel it. You can feel it in the air with how excited they were, how excited we were, how excited they are about being back in the gym and working with the kids. It was a great vibe in there, in the practice gym, I loved it. I loved it. My son Brandon doesn’t smile a lot, but after practice, he walked out on that gym floor and was laughing and joking with the guys like he was already part of the team. It was like he was one of those guys. Saturday night, he hung out with them at the Lodge, played pool, watched the game. Coach Cal came to me and said, “What did they say to him to make him laugh and make him smile? I haven’t been able to make him smile all weekend!” I said, “Coach, it’s so hard to get him to smile. I can’t do it.” You can just tell the energy they had. Practice was high-paced, no one was standing still, everyone was going the whole time. They went hard the whole time, the entire hour and 15 minutes, hour and a half, but they were going. Last time we talked, you said Coach Cal loved Brandon’s game and thought he was a perfect fit for modern day basketball and where the league is going. What are his goals with Brandon as a player? How did Cal say he would fit into his system?  Brandon is a big guard, and a lot of the practice was about spacing. Brandon would have a lot of spacing to go either left or right to create his shot, and that’s a perfect fit for him. He can drive to the basket and pull up or go all the way to the rack and lay it up or go to the paint and dish it out to a 3-point shooter. That complements his game, he’s an underrated passed. I could be biased - I am his father (laughs) – but I think he’s a good passer too. Everyone wants to know the NIL situation and how Kentucky plans to handle that. What were those conversations like? It was more about Brandon having all of the support he wants if he wanted to go that route. The NIL is something that’s going to be in place, but a kid doesn’t have to pursue that if he doesn’t want to. If Brandon just wants to focus on basketball and classes, that’s fine, but it’s there if he wants it. If someone wants to contact him, Brandon would have the resources to reach out to the NIL representative at the school and get consultation. They can’t tell you ‘this is how you do a deal’ or ‘ask for this much’ but they can research that company, do things like that, so if he does decide to do that he can make an educated decision on what he should get paid and things like that. It was really about the support that he has for all of it. Do you get the sense that branding and exposure is something Brandon will factor in with his decision? What are your thoughts on this process and knowing it’s not just about class and basketball anymore and a new door has been opened? It may not be that important for him as far as choosing a school. The schools we’ve visited already and the schools we plan on visiting, they’re popular enough that once you step on campus, you’re going to have a huge following. It’s going to work itself out. What kids may not understand is, right now, it’s going to take time too. You still have practice, you still have class, you still have a job to do while you’re still there on scholarship. That is something else and it’s going to take time away from you. They just need to understand that – and I don’t know all of the logistics yet – but if you go over here and do a commercial, that’s going to take time from you being in the gym putting shots up. Right now, Brandon is just focused on playing ball and classes, that’s it. That’s something I’ll have to help him with when the time comes, it’s just so new. We’re blessed because we still have a year to see how colleges do with it before we get there. They can go in and work some of the kinks out. Talking to Skyy Clark, he says he’s recruiting Brandon hard to UK. Are there any other players your son would like to play with at the next level? Him and Skyy have a great relationship, they talk all the time on the phone and through Instagram, things like that. What I've realized is, when these kids are out on the circuit and meet each other and hang out, they become friends. You have guys like Chris Livingston from Ohio, Brandon talks to him. He has relationships with all of these kids through the circuit, and if you think about it, they can come together themselves and say 'hey man, we can all go to this school right here since they're recruiting all of us.' I don't know specifically who he wants to play with, but he's developed so many relationships. As for what’s next, are there any other visits scheduled? Will you take more trips in the fall? The only thing on our schedule right now is a one-day visit to Tennessee State University tomorrow, and that’s it for the junior visits. We didn’t do a junior visit for the University of Florida, and he wanted to see them. Maybe another school. Brandon may want to take a second official to one of the schools he’s already visited because all the visits we’ve done were in June. I’d like him to see how it is when COVID is over, everyone is in class, this is the student life right here. Like at UK, there’s 30,000 students that go here, this is how it’s going to be when you see students walking all over campus, this is how it’s going to be. Some of the other visits we’ve taken in June, we may take another when school starts, but I’m not sure what they are. Brandon could say he wants to see more schools, but he could go to sleep, have a dream and wake up saying, ‘hey, I just had a dream, this is the school.’ You just never know. In terms of cutting down a list and making a final commitment, what’s the latest there?  We’re trying to do a list cut in August, I’m not sure if that’s going to be a top five or a top eight. Our plan is to do an early signing, a November signing, that’s the plan. But you never know. We have a system where we weigh our pros and cons, put some schools here, other schools there, do things like that. You can have a great feel for a coach or the players and something is in you saying, ‘this is the one.’ That’s the timeline we have, but with these kids, you never know how they’re thinking sometimes.

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