With Quentin Thomas still sidelined, the Tar Heels needed a strong showing from Miller Saturday in Lexington – and the junior guard delivered.
“It was a great day for Wes Miller,” Roy Williams said. “He came off the bench and gave us a big lift with some outside shots.”
Miller hit three three-pointers, totaling 12 points, in 20 minutes of action.
“I had been shooting the ball real well in practice all year and I didn’t get any looks against Illinois,” Miller said. “My teammates found me tonight and I have a lot of confidence in shooting the ball. They found me in good spots and I was able to knock down a couple shots.”
This wasn’t the most minutes he’s played this season (21 vs. UCSB) or the best stat line (11 pts, 4 ast, 3 stl vs. CSU), but Miller’s performance legitimized him as being capable of contributing at the highest level.
“The games against Illinois and against Kentucky are the [most important] minutes I’ve had in my college basketball career,” said Miller, who transferred from James Madison two years ago to walk on at UNC, but is on scholarship this season. “This one felt great because we came out with a win. I wasn’t thinking about it on the floor, I’m just trying to do my job and play, but sitting here in the locker room it feels good.”
As important as his three-pointers were against Kentucky – and a week before against UCSB – that’s what he’s expected to bring to the table. More impressive has been how he’s held his own on defense, which included helping to contain all-America candidates Dee Brown and Rajon Rondo in successive games.
“Me, Bobby and Marcus really focus on staying in front of the ball,” Miller said. “I thought for the most part we did a really good job staying in front.”
The 5-10 Charlotte native has also played the role of sparkplug off the bench, helping to energize his teammates with his defensive hustle.
“When I came in the game I just tried to pick up the energy a little bit,” Miller said of his effort against UCSB. “When you put pressure on the ball out front, it kind of encourages your teammates to pressure all over the court.”
Through five games, Miller is averaging 6.2 points, shooting 47.1 percent from beyond the arc, sporting a 2.3 assist-to-turnover, recording 1.2 steals per game and giving maximum effort in practice and in games.
There’s not much more Roy Williams can ask of him.
"He's pushed himself probably as close to the max as anybody I've coached in a long, long time," the head coach said.
And it’s safe to say after his nationally televised performance against Kentucky, opponents – and Carolina fans – will cease to underestimate or underappreciate Wes Miller.