For Nicole Miller, her son’s journey from high school star to gold medal winner to national champion seemed both long and quick.
However, like University of Kentucky fans, she’s extremely proud of what Darius Miller accomplished during his four years at Kentucky that culminated with the Wildcats winning the national title April 2 in New Orleans.
“We are just really trying to get back to a normal life now and getting caught up on our rest,” said Nicole Miller. “But we are still so excited for Darius and the team. It was a great, great run and everybody had so much fun.
“It seemed liked a long journey at times, but it also seems like it went so fast. I am ready for the next chapter in his life, and IÃ?Â¿am sure he is, too. But this year was so exciting and so much fun to watch, especially with the season ending with the national championship.”
Her son was a Mr. Basketball at Mason County who led his team to a state title. At UK, he helped the United States win a gold medal in international play after his sophomore season. Now he has a national championship. No other in-state player can boast that he has all four of those things on his basketball resume.
“He has been so blessed,”Ã?Â¿Nicole Miller said. “We are used to seeing him succeed, but you still can’t take any of that lightly. To whom much is given, much is expected. That’s the way it has always been with Darius.”
To say Maysville is proud of him would be a huge understatement. Mason County High School has a sign saying, “Darius went to high school here, just saying.” But get this — so does the YMCA daycare he attended as well as his church. Try to think of how often you’ve had a day care proclaiming that a star athlete went there.
“They are all pretty proud of him just like we are,” Nicole Miller said. “Everybody is so excited for him. Everybody is congratulating us and him and sending regards to give him.”
Nicole Miler seldom showed any emotions during her son’s career whether it was during the frustrating freshman NIT season under Billy Gillispie or when Darius Miller was winning Southeastern Conference Tournament MVP honors as a junior or when he was hitting big shot after big shot in UK’s national title season.
“I am pretty low key,” she said. “There were times with the Billy Gillispie stuff and when you feel like you child should be playing as much as anybody else or when you see him frustrated and not at his best that would bother you as a parent. But I am pretty laid back and always try to remember that at the end of the day God is control of all.
“He always handled everything pretty well. We always tried to encourage him. We just told him to stay strong in his faith and whatever is for you is for you and nobody can change that.”
Darius Miller actually got to come to Maysville for Easter to spend time with his parents, grandmother and other family members.
“That was very nice and doesn’t happen very often,”Ã?Â¿Nicole Miller said.
It won’t happen again soon either more and likely. He’s lining up appearances daily. He signed autographs in Lexington last week. Wednesday he’ll have an autograph signing at Fan Outfitters on Tates Creek Road in Lexington from 6-8 p.m. He throws out the first pitch at the Lexington Legends home opener Thursday night. Saturday he’ll be at the Pikeville Wal-Mart from 2-4 p.m.
On April 21, he’ll be at Bob Allen Motor Mall in Danville from 9:30-11 a.m., Wildcat Ford in Jessamine County from 11:30 a.m. -1 p.m.and Tim Short Ford in Hazard later in the day.
“We are adding locations every day,” Terrence Commodore, who is helping Miller with his scheduling, said. “He’s going to stay very busy.”
Don’t forget he will graduate from UK, too, on May 6.
“We are very proud he’s going to graduate,”Ã?Â¿Nicole Miller said. “But we like that he can get out with the fans. Fans were great to us. It was nice to hear them say good things about your kid whether it was his basketball skills or him as a person. You like hearing fans defend him and how highly they think of him, and he loved the fans.”
She says her best single memory will be the national championship win over Kansas.
“You want to see kids succeed and it’s just hard to top that,” she said.
As for regrets, there’s only one — her and her husband, Brian, didn’t get to see the national championship banner raised in Rupp Arena.
“We were driving back from New Orleans and didn’t know they were raising the banner the next day during the celebration at Rupp,” she said. “If we had of known, we would have left after the game and drove all night to be back. We wanted to see that.”
Maybe with the success he’s had, she’ll eventually get to see him be part of raising a NBA championship banner. He’s projected as mid-second round draft pick and likely will face the same skeptics/doubters he had to silence in college.
“He’ll just have to go out and play his game and let them see what he’s capable of just like he’s always done,” Nicole Miller said. “That won’t be anything new for him. He’s done that his whole life.”