|Miller at the GAIS Mini-Camp in April|
Adjusting to increased academic demands and resisting the temptation to start slow in the classroom is difficult for any freshman student. After all, few (if any) people present on campus apply pressure on the student to regularly attend classes and diligently study. And these tasks become particularly difficult for a young man accustomed to basketball success who is realizing for the first time that playing with and against guys who also earned scholarships, and who are mostly older and more experienced, will mean there will be many more bad times than good.
So as the basketball season begins and the two guys who scored so many points, grabbed so many rebounds, and made so many plays for me are now encountering obstacles, I encourage them to do what they have always done so well: pursue excellence with the same passion, enthusiasm, and good cheer when times are tough as they do when times are good. We Eagles call this "moving forward." And as I told Matt after a season opening Merchant Marines Academy loss that caused him to question what has happened to his shooting touch, "move forward and learn to have fun in success and failure alike, and you will have learned a great life secret."
As usual, Matt doesn't actually need most of my advice. Eighteen hours after his initial disappointment, he scored 16 points (on 10 shots), grabbed 8 rebounds, and dished out 4 assists, helping to lead his team to its first win of the season. I think after our text exchange following his opening game and his coach's words before the second game ("Matt, I didn't bring you from Augusta to New York for you to not shoot the ball!"), he agrees with me that his 2 for 8 shooting performance on opening night does not mean he "can't make shots." Eagles supporters would probably agree that 8 shots was hardly enough tries for Matt to get loose during games in high school!
But as always, I am most impressed with his perspective on life's important matters, especially in the eyes of a college freshman. At his most discouraged moment, he lamented that he hoped to get his shooting form back after finals next week because he felt like studying had kept him from doing as much basketball skill work as usual. He then added that there was no way he would be compromising his "school first" priority list.
With this perspective, it is hardly surprising that Matt was able to have such a good performance so early in his freshman basketball season. After all, basketball is a game. And keeping it in its proper place is not only the wise choice, it is counter intuitively the best strategy for playing it well. Matt is sure to face more disappointment on the court and in the classroom as he adjusts to adulthood. But the ability to face adversity and smile and move forward should serve him well in his upcoming examinations in the classroom and on the court.
***If you are interested, Matt shared with me in this interview the special academic requirements and demands at the US Merchant Marines Academy. I have always admired Matt and been impressed by his decisions. I think it will be hard to watch listen to him talk and not be impressed.***