Spring 2003

Building Momentum

Paul Miller
Paul Miller scored a team-high 18 points and grabbed six
rebounds in Wichita State’s loss to Iowa State in the opening
round of the National Invitational Tournament.

Paul Miller won’t dazzle you with an eye-catching move followed by a no-look pass like the creative Fridge Holman.

And he may not possess the defensive tenacity of Jamar Howard (then again, who does?) or the smooth shot of Randy Burns.

But make no mistake, Miller, Wichita State’s rapidly improving center, has shown he’s capable of playing a key role next season as the WSU basketball team attempts to continue its impressive resurgence.

After a slow start — so slow, in fact, that coach Mark Turgeon wondered if Miller would ever be capable of contributing any meaningful minutes — he finished his redshirt freshman season with a solid stretch of performances, including his best game in the spotlight of a postseason tournament.

There’s little flash to Miller — that’s best left to Holman. And little emotion — that’s Howard’s game.

Yet Miller’s workmanlike efforts were clearly noticed around the Missouri Valley Conference, and he was named to the MVC All-Freshman team. More important, his growth was noticed by the man whose opinion matters most. “The improvement he made this season was tremendous,” Turgeon says. “He’s got a chance to be one of the best big guys in our league.”

An amazing statement, really, considering how Miller’s career started. The Jefferson City, Mo., native broke a bone in his foot during practice in 2001, forcing a redshirt.

While he says he gained strength and learned a great deal during the time he sat out, he was far from impressive at the beginning of the 2002-03 season.

“He was a little out of shape, a little uncoordinated,” Turgeon recalls. “I didn’t know how tough he was. I didn’t know if he could even play for us.” It didn’t seem so early on. After two games, Miller had more fouls (three) than points (two).

But his work ethic paid off, and when Jamie Sowers left the team, Miller began to see more playing time. “As the season went on, I learned a little more each game, and I got better each game,” he says.

Miller’s final statistics — he averaged 7.4 points and 4.7 rebounds a game — were modest. Over the final four games of the season, however, those stats increased to 12.3 points and 6.75 rebounds. “He just put his head down, went to work and said, ‘I’m gonna be a basketball player,’ and he turned himself into a good one,” Turgeon says.

Miller finished the season in fine fashion, scoring a team-high 18 points and nabbing six rebounds in WSU’s loss to Iowa State in the opening round of the National Invitational Tournament. Iowa State was supposed to have the advantage down low, but Miller held his own.

“People kept telling me how their inside game was pretty good, so I guess I took it as a challenge,” he says. “I got the ball in good spots and was able to finish. Having a game like that at the end of the season leaves you with a good taste in your mouth.”

While Miller is a 248-pound post player, he possesses the ability to step outside and hit medium-range jump shots.

Miller, who shot 48 percent from the field and 74 percent from the foul line, says he’s comfortable ranging 16 or 17 feet from the basket. “He’s got tremendous touch, and that’s something you can’t teach,” Turgeon relates.

Fans may see more of that touch next season. “A lot of times in our league, big guys aren’t guarded on the perimeter,” Miller points out. “This year, I didn’t shoot the ball on the perimeter when I was open. I plan on doing that next year.”

Jamar Howard
Jamar Howard is the first Shocker
to earn MVC Defensive Player of
the Year honors since Dwayne
Praylow in 1999.

Miller’s progression was only one of many season highlights. WSU finished 12-6 in the MVC and 18-12 overall. Further, the team took pride in finding long-awaited success on the road, where they were 5-4 in conference games. “We really grew up and became a good road team,” says Turgeon, the former Kansas guard who completed his third season with the Shockers.

But the most memorable game of the season was played before a home crowd in mid-February. In front of more than 9,000 fans, the Shockers upset Creighton, which entered the game ranked No. 12 in the nation, by the score of 80-74.

The game was filled with clutch play from many Shockers. Aaron Hogg overwhelmed the Blue Jays with 27 points and 10 rebounds; WSU held Creighton All-American candidate Kyle Korver to 15 points; and the Shocks made five of six pressure-packed free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the victory. When it was over, fans celebrated with players on the court.

The season culminated in a trip to the NIT, the Shockers’ first postseason appearance since 1989. Even though WSU lost, the Shockers made a statement by reaching the tourney and playing a Big 12 team close on its own home court.

Several Shockers enjoyed outstanding individual seasons. Howard was a first-team All-MVC selection and the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

The 6-5 sophomore forward from Shawnee Mission, Kan., averaged 14.2 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. Known for his intense, emotional play, Howard explains, “I just try to create my own style for my team, and leave it all out on the court.”

Hogg, a junior who chipped in 12.2 points and 5.2 rebounds a game, became the first Shocker to earn Sixth Man of the Year honors since Lynbert “Cheese” Johnson in 1976. Hogg was among the league leaders in three-point field-goal percentage (.461) and threes per game (2.19). In addition, Burns (15.1 PPG), along with Hogg, received honorable mention honors.

The Shockers lose only one senior, the gritty Craig Steven, and Turgeon’s recruiting class has been receiving positive reviews. Add in the fact that the team will play in a new arena next season and excitement is already building. Fans are talking about a Valley championship and a possible trip to the big dance, the NCAA tournament. Shocker supporters haven’t dared dream about such topics for years.

“It hasn’t been easy to get to this position,” Turgeon says. “We’ve had to work hard for the last three years. Charles Koch Arena is going to be a great venue for us, and we want to have a really good basketball team to go along with it. We want to get it back to when the place was selling out, when people were standing in line for tickets, when everyone was excited about Shocker basketball. I want us to return to those days.”


Building Momentum

Paul Miller won’t dazzle you with an eye-catching move followed by a no-look pass like the creative Fridge Holman.

The Sky's the Limit

Long-time pitching coach Brent Kemnitz ’80 has seen more than his share of outstanding newcomers, young guys blessed with live arms, take the mound for WSU’s baseball teams.

Picture Perfect

The situation Lindsey Lang found herself in was highly unsettling.

Sports Briefs

Shocker Sports News and Notes