Miles Building Toward Second Season with Mountaineers - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Miles Building Toward Second Season with Mountaineers

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GREENTREE -

Keaton Miles came running into the Greentree Sportsplex Wednesday in a hurry. His game was set to begin in a matter of minutes and there he was just jogging into the gym after making the journey from Morgantown to Pittsburgh.

No time for warming up, Miles found himself flipping his jersey from the black he showed up in to his GNC team's white and immediately entering the lineup for the opening tipoff.

While Miles was right on the cusp of getting to his game too late, the rest of his college teammates had not made the trip at all. Miles' team was off on Monday, but again, no other WVU players were there.

The Pittsburgh Pro Am Summer League is by no means a mandatory event and among the reasons players had missed included homework and health concerns, but Miles had no such excuses. He just wanted to play the game he loves.

"It's just always fun to come out here and play some good competition, just being able to play your game," the WVU sophomore said after his team pulled out an overtime win. "Other guys have different situations and they try to make it when they can. I wasn't doing anything right now, so I chose to come up here and compete."

Miles, along with just about everyone else in the league, had the opportunity to showcase his individual talents in the game rather than play as part of a system.

Oftentimes when the ball got to him, he did not let it go unless it was directed toward the basket.

Time after time, his arsenal was made up of spot-up jumpers or a dribble drive past his defender to the hole.

He finished the game with 17 points and nine rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting.

"I wish I had more rebounds," Miles admitted. "That's what I was trying to focus on tonight was rebounding. My jumper wasn't falling as much, so I just tried to find a different way to [score] and that was getting to the free throw line and getting some rhythm."

Miles ultimately got in his rhythm by connecting on seven of his 11 free throw attempts, but he did miss the front end of a 1-and-1 that could have helped seal a win in regulation. In overtime, he went to the line and upon making his first shot, the scoreboard gave his team two points.

One of the opposing players pointed this out, to which an official replied, "He's automatic."

That may be a stretch, but Miles looked comfortable penetrating against bigger athletes in an effort to score however he could, whether on a layup attempt or from the line after getting hacked on his way up.

"It's always fun to compete against different faces and not always try to bash your teammates in practice and in open gyms," says Miles. "Competing against each other is fine, but to actually go beat up on somebody else is always fun too."

That competition outside of the WVU practice facility helps Miles gain confidence as he sees his game working against other college players. At the same time, he knows he has a lot of work to do before his athleticism and the things he does to exploit players in this league translate to the work he does in head coach Bob Huggins' system.

As a freshman, Miles started in 30 of the team's 33 games, but averaged fewer minutes than six of his teammates and finished with just 1.4 points and 1.9 rebounds per game.

For a player full of confidence coming out of Lincoln High in Dallas, Texas, it was very much unlike the season he had envisioned for himself.

"Last year was more mental than anything. I took probably two, three shots in the game and that wasn't even my role at the time. I really wasn't as comfortable," he says.

Conversations with the people who had his back through it all, like his father and WVU associate head coach Larry Harrison, told him to continue fighting and refocus himself for what he could do to improve in year two.

"We said, okay, we can reflect on that. Let's leave that in the past. Don't forget that, but let's move on and progress," says Miles. "I can't go back into that mindset and that mentality of being passive and not being able to shoot the ball. I think I'll be more aggressive and try to be aggressive for the better of the team."

Miles sees a far different level of athleticism for West Virginia this year when he looks around the gym in practice and believes his role, as with many others on the team, will change significantly from a season ago.

Another change that is evident in seeing Miles these days is the size he has put on in the offseason, making him a far more imposing presence than he was as a freshman. Listed at 205 pounds on the team's website, Miles says he doesn't want to share his weight until the season starts because he has a goal in mind, but one he isn't willing to disclose just yet.

His experiences from a freshman year that fell short of expectations are pushing him each day since that campaign ended back in March.

They push him to make the drive up to Pittsburgh each week and they will continue to push him until he finally has the opportunity to get back on the court and prove himself as a sophomore.

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