Prior to the season opener three months ago, Bob Huggins knew he had to find a replacement for lanky, lockdown defender John Flowers. Flowers was able to come in for Devin Ebanks a year earlier and the Mountaineers didn't skip a beat defensively from the small forward spot.
This season, that role was given to Dallas, TX native Keaton Miles. At 6'6, 205 pounds, he physically fit the bill and has started all but one game this season for WVU.
"It's a motivation and confidence builder [to start]," Miles said. "If I keep on doing what I'm supposed to do, then I'll be able to get more things added to my role. [Starting] does affect my confidence as far as looking into the future."
When you begin your career as a college basketball player, it can be a tough transition because in high school, many players are used to being "the man". There are only a few exceptions where a freshman comes in and immediately takes over. With players like Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant on this year's WVU squad, the odds were against the freshmen from the beginning. They had to come in and accept what Coach Huggins wants them to do.
"It hasn't been hard to accept because I know that with time, it will be my time," Miles said. "I've been through this with my high school career, coming in as a freshman and coaches telling me this isn't middle school anymore. It's the same thing now except now I'm more mature and more willing to accept my role."
The season hasn't exactly gone as many expected it would for Miles, but he is in a learning process and expects to get better. He is averaging 13 minutes per game along with 1.2 points [shooting 30% from the field], 1.7 rebound, 1.2 assists and 0.5 blocks. The most points he's scored in a game this season was six against Rutgers in mid-January.
"I just have to keep my confidence up," Miles said. "When I'm down, I just need to go into the next game or even the next moment when I'm on the court and try and play as hard as I can."
When Miles came on a visit last season, John Flowers said he saw a lot of himself in Keaton. Flowers said that Miles had a ways to go, but he could be that lockdown defender and shot blocker who will get his points when needed.
"We don't talk much but when we do, we can both sense that we're a lot alike," Miles said. "The personalities, being goofy guys and especially on the court because we both have a serious mindset when it comes to defense and things like that."
Miles came a long way from home to come play basketball at West Virginia, but the experience as been great for him so far.
"I love Morgantown," Miles said. "Everyone has been very welcoming and the people are great. They're very supportive."
An important thing to know about Keaton Miles is that there should be no issues with academics in the near future. Miles was able to pull in a 3.6 GPA in his first semester at WVU.