Ian Miller, much like his backcourt mate Michael Snaer, is not at a loss for confidence. The junior guard battled through off-the-court issues that cost him the start of his sophomore season and became one of the Seminoles' most dynamic scoring threats by last season's end.
Coming off the bench for Florida State Miller was second on the team averaging 10.9 ppg and played a major role in the Seminoles' first ever ACC title.
Now a junior, Miller and the Seminoles are feeling confident with their newfound position atop the ACC.
“We’re the defending ACC champs and we have a target on our back," said Miller. "Everybody knows it so everybody’s taken their work ethic to the next level because we know people are going to come at us hard.
"But then again we do have six incoming freshmen so we have to take that and make sure that they grasp everything early. Over the summer they got the learn a little bit of the system and catch on early and I think everybody has taken their games to another level."
The Seminole team that hoisted ACC hardware in Atlanta last year is largely departed. Tournament MVP Michael Snaer is back for his senior season, as are Miller and fellow junior Okaro White, but gone are six seniors including guards Deividas Dulkys, Luke Loucks and Jeff Petersen. The Seminoles backcourt is much less crowded now meaning Miller will team with Snaer for a good portion of the minutes next year.
Snaer has already voiced his opinions, that he thinks he's the best 2-guard in the nation and that FSU will win it all. So when I talked to Ian I asked him if he ever pulls Snaer aside and tells him to pump the brakes a little.
"No I tell him to turn it up because me and Mike talk all the time that we have the best backcourt, between me and him," said Miller. "It’s sort of like at St. [Joseph’s, with] Jameer Nelson and Delonte West. Me and Mike have been talking about them, that’s who we think we are this year.
"Just by their bond on and off the court, just working so hard in practice, like it was just during the summer me and Mike pushing each other so hard we’d be angry. That’s just us becoming one and knowing what each other does best and just pushing each other wanting to be better."
Nelson (now with the Magic) and West (Mavericks) teamed together at St. Joe's during the 2003-2004 season to go 27-0 and make it into the Elite Eight. They were regarded by many as the nation's best backcourt.
Miller and Snaer see parallels.
"We think we have the best backcourt tandem in the country because we’ve worked hard, we’ve shown flashes of that last year, this year it’s just going to be consistent," said Miller. "We were up and down last year as a one-two punch but this year it’s just going to be consistent and it’s going to be a show to watch."
Snaer and Miller do create a formidable scoring duo, last year despite limited minutes they finshed one-two in scoring for the Seminoles. This season with both starting and fewer proven guards in the rotation, both should see their numbers spike.
One of the other things that Miller feels is discounted, but makes him and Snaer the best tandem in the country is how well-rounded they are defensively. Snaer is reputedly one of the best defenders in the nation, but Miller feels he's finally taken the steps to become a key part of what is annually a very good Seminoles defense.
It's something he admits didn't click as a freshman.
"Just the intensity [increases], you’re changing from high school to college," said Miller. "I think when you come out of high school a lot of people just think ‘oh I’m going to go in college and do the same thing I did in high school.’ No... It’s different, because here if you don’t play defense you’re not going to play."
Miller has had some growing up to do, he told me in a conversation last year that Leonard Hamilton hadn't given him much of a choice at the start of his sophomore year, that his maturation came out of necessity.
In the initial moment it's tough to gauge, but if my conversation with him this past week was any indication he really has grown up. Even in the new-found confidence and succinct nature of his answers you can sense Miller is more at ease with himself, and more prepared to shoulder a bigger load for the Seminoles this season, than he was just this past spring.
The first time I ever asked Ian about his game he told me he was a stone cold scorer. Today he'll still tell you that same thing, but after he mentions his defense and the team concept.
And it's that defense that Miller feels helps sets his backcourt tandem apart from others, that it's so well-rounded on both sides of the ball.
As for the turnover the Seminoles have with six seniors gone and six freshman incoming, I'll hold Miller's thoughts on the new guys for another post on another day. But when asked what Seminoles fans can expect to see out of this new-look FSU team, Miller didn't hesistate.
"I don’t think they’re ever going to have to worry about us not scoring, not putting the ball in the hoop for those long segments where we couldn’t score, I don’t think we’ll see any of that this year."
I'll have a little more basketball coming up this week leading into media day on October 1st, but for now it's back to football. Check back later today for Jimbo's presser, EJ Manuel and notes from Florida State's Monday practice.