BOWLING GREEN - Nate Miller is Bowling Green's top scorer, the Mid-American Conference East division's new player of the week and the emotional leader of a team that's won five straight.
For him, life is truly good right now.
Miller, a senior, sometimes thinks about how all of this - his team-best 12.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, the Falcons' five-game winning streak, the personal accolades and upcoming showdown tomorrow against rival Toledo - almost slipped away last summer.
After violating team rules and engaging in an unspecified pattern of troubling behavior, Miller was told by coach Louis Orr to leave campus and contemplate changes Orr was asking him to make in order to remain on the team.
"I really thank coach for what he did," Miller said yesterday. "I appreciate him caring about me more than just as a basketball player."
Miller defers to Orr when asked what rule he violated. Orr won't specify the rule or the greater pattern of behavior that landed Miller in trouble, but Orr's issues with him were academic, personal and basketball related.
Orr said Miller had some "tough choices to make ... some obligations to fulfill" in order to play this season. The three-game suspension he served to start the year was only a portion of Miller's penance. He also couldn't miss or be late to class and had an evening curfew set for him, among other restrictions.
"At the beginning of the school year, I don't know if anyone was sure how it would play out," Orr said.
Miller led the Falcons in scoring (13.2 ppg) and was second in rebounding (6.4 rpg) last season, Orr's first at BGSU. His talent was obvious, but Orr said Miller could've worked harder to be an even better player.
Orr also acknowledges Miller's performance in the classroom was lacking.
"Nate's got a big personality and a large sphere of influence," Orr said. "He's the kind of player, the kind of man, who's going to affect the whole team. That's a big responsibility.
"I commend him, I really do. He had some tough decisions to make and he made them, some obligations to fulfill and he fulfilled them. He has matured."
Miller's parents are thankful for Orr showing their son some tough love. Miller's father, Nate Sr., said Orr made his son "become a man."
"Nate has always been a real good kid and never really faced any adversity in his life," Mr. Miller said in a phone interview.
"Then this summer he had some problems he was faced with. At the time, we didn't know if he would make it through. Coach Orr made him take a look at his life, made him buckle down."
Miller reported that he's coming off one of his finest academic semesters and declares himself "more organized" and stronger spiritually. His presence on the court is undeniable.
Since joining the starting lineup Jan. 20, Miller is averaging 14.2 points per game. The Falcons are 5-1 during that stretch.
Yesterday, Miller was named the MAC East's player of the week for recording double-doubles in each of BGSU's victories last week.
"I feel like I've grown 100 percent," he said.
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