By Chris Parker
The Miller boys basketball team has been heading in the right direction the past few seasons. In 2016 and 2017, the Cardinals won a total of five games. That number jumped to a 10-16 record in 2018 and a 12-14 record last season.
This year, Miller has all the pieces to keep that trend going.
“We took a step in the right direction, and competed against tough teams all season long (last year),” Miller head coach Jason Kleine said. “We look to continue to become better on and off the ball defenders, as well as rebound the ball better. We also need to consistently make more free throws down the stretch.”
Joel Kleeman earned first-team all-conference honors last year in his sophomore season after he averaged 16 points per game to lead Miller. He also pulled down 6.1 rebounds to go with two assists and 1.1 steals per game.
“Joel had a great season. He is a great athlete with speed and quickness. He is very good with the ball in his hands, especially in transition. He really started to figure things out in the second half of the season last year. He became more aggressive and consistently made more outside shots. He became a better defender,” Kleine said. “Joel has become stronger in the off-season, as well as worked on extending his shooting range. He has become very versatile, and will be a mismatch for many defenders. He will also be a better defender than he was last year.”
Senior Presten Richardson was also an all-conference honorable mention selection in 2018 after averaging 11.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
“Presten is guy our team can depend on in big games in big ways. He’s not afraid to take the big shot, but he is also unselfish and will gladly pass up a good shot for a great shot,” Kleine said. “I look for Presten to have a great season. He has improved at attacking the basket off the drive, so teams won’t just be able to play up tight on him without the threat of the drive. He is already our schools career three-point record holder. I look for him to continue to spread the defense with or without the ball.”
Junior Jeffrey Lung returns to run the show at point guard. He led the team with 2.7 assists per game along with 4.4 points per game.
“He (Lung) is our most unselfish player, and creates opportunities for his teammates. He also plays tough on the defensive end,” Kleine said.
Nick Johnson will bring tough defense in his senior season.
“Nick Johnson is a great athlete that is very quick with the ball in his hands, but has improved his outside shot. He is our best defender and is great at anticipating passes to get steals,” Kleine said.
Neilson Hadlock scored 8.5 points per game last year, which was fourth on the team.
“Neilson Hadlock has gotten a lot stronger over the off season, and we look for him to play both on the inside and outside this year,” Kleine said.
Kaul Kleeman does a lot for Miller that doesn’t always show up in the box score.
“Kaul Kleeman is a good defender, and might be our best rebounder. He plays tough, and also sees the floor well when he has the ball,” Kleine said.
Senior Parker Myhre will step up to the varsity level this season. His six-foot-three-inch frame will be a key presence in the post for Miller. Brendan Thom will bring shooting to the varsity level in his sophomore year. Kaleb Groesbeck will also look to compete for varsity minutes at a guard spot.
Athleticism will be an asset for Miller, but the Cardinals will need to improve their rebounding.
“We will have great team speed and be athletic, which we will use to cause problems on the defensive end of the floor,” Kleine said. “We have to rebound better, and consistently make more free throws.”
If Miller is to continue increasing its win total, success on the defensive end will be a big reason why.
“I expect us to be very competitive this year, and be in every ball game because of our defense. We will have to put out our best effort every night because our conference, and non-conference schedule is very tough,” Kleine said.
Miller opens the season Dec. 2-7 at the Marionville Invitational.