Miller gives Southern punch off the bench

The Southern men’s basketball team is a far cry to the team it was two seasons ago.

With a new coach, a new system and a plethora of new faces, the Jaguars have steadily been in rebuilding mode, this season in particular.

Southern lost six contributors from 2011, partially to graduation and partially for academic reasons, leading to a large turnover entering the 2012 season.

“We lost a lot of kids that were here,” second-year coach Roman Banks said. “A couple of guys on the team playing weren’t on scholarship, and they had to make a decision academically or athletically, and they made the academic side, which is fair. That’s why we had a high turnover. Not necessarily just because they weren’t good basketballwise, but some people weren’t fitting in academically.”

The Jaguars filled the holes with seven new faces this season and, despite the 2-5 record in the early going, have been competitive in all their big games thus far. One of the major reasons has been the play of transfer guard Malcolm Miller.

Miller graduated from Midland (Texas) Lee High School in 2010 with two district MVP honors, as well as a defensive MVP his senior year, while being named to the all-state team three times.

He landed in Baton Rouge this season after a year at South Plains College and has quickly made his impact felt.

The 6-foot-6, 200-pound utility man is athletic enough to drop down and play the post, and quick enough to pop out and play the three, which put him in the top 50 among junior college wings after last season.

“We are expecting big things from him,” Banks said. “With our size, we can play him at the four some. (He’s) a true winger as well. He just has to continue to work hard defensively to guard the three on the other team. Those are some things with him, but he’s working hard, and I’m pleased with his progress.”

Miller hasn’t started a game for Southern yet this season, but has been the biggest spark off the bench off the bench for the Jaguars.

He ranks second on the team with 12.7 points per game — trailing only senior Derick Beltran, who averages 15.3 — while chipping in 4.3 rebounds per game and a team-high 13 steals.

“A guy like that we depend on,” Banks said of Miller. “In junior college, he came off the bench and was one of their top scorers. I think for me, I see him better at that role. I think he comes in and he’s much more relaxed. And often times, he can make us better. My system is kind of set up that way as well. He can be the first guy at the small forward or on the wing.”

Banks added that the best may be yet to come.

Miller suffered a fractured wrist before the season began and was limited in practices and individual workouts. He has played in all seven games this season, but Banks said he feels Miller is still coming into his own and developing into the system.

“I think he got off to a slow start when we got in individual workouts because he was injured,” Banks said. “He’s slowly beginning to develop to where I thought he may be.”

If Miller’s 51.5 perent shooting and 48.4 percent accuracy from beyond the arc are any indication of his progress, Miller may become a household name for Jaguars fans in the very near future.