Steamboat’s Jake Miller puts up a shot Wednesday as the Sailors practiced. The 6-foot-2 senior forward has proved invaluable for the Sailors so far this season.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat’s Jake Miller puts up a shot Wednesday as the Sailors practiced. The 6-foot-2 senior forward has proved invaluable for the Sailors so far this season.

Sailors' Jake Miller practices solid fundamentals

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Sailors' Jake Miller develops

Jake Miller's progression has made him an asset for the Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team.

Jake Miller's progression has made him an asset for the Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team.

— Jake Miller is a tip of the cap to a bygone basketball era.

The 6-foot-2 Steamboat Springs High School senior forward readily admits he isn’t as tall or athletically gifted as just about any opponent he goes up against.

But Miller is an old-school, small-town forward. He gets by on smarts, an uncanny ability to work in space and an amazingly soft touch around the rim.

“He’s never been a super athlete, but he’s always found ways to be super fundamental,” Steamboat coach Luke DeWolfe said. “His fundamentals even the playing field when he goes against someone athletic. He’s able to compete on a level against kids who are stronger than him, faster than him or can jump higher because of those fundamentals.”

Miller certainly has backed that up in the early season. 

After seeing minuscule minutes last season, Miller has become the Sailors’ best player. 

Through seven games, he’s averaging 16.8 points per game and has led Steamboat in scoring in every game.

“Honestly, I’m a little surprised,” Miller said about his fast start.

He shouldn’t be, though. 

DeWolfe said that when the team lost most of its scoring punch from last season, Steamboat was in desperate need of someone to step up. 

After the season and through the summer, Miller went to work. He worked out with trainer Pio Utu to hide some of his physical shortcomings. Then he spent countless hours in the gym with former Steamboat post player Devin Borvansky and former coach Kelly Meek.

“He has put in time to become that basketball player,” DeWolfe said. “And I don’t mean just a few days here and there. He has worked every single day to make himself a great basketball player.”

Miller’s ability already has become evident. He’s overcome his lack of athleticism by understanding the space in which he plays. Maybe even more important than his body control has been his ability to use his left and right hand around the basket.

Miller credits his grandfather Stan Stokke, who coached the junior varsity team at Douglas County for more than 30 years, with helping him improve. He said that ever since he can remember playing basketball, his grandfather had him working toward being ambidextrous.

“It’s the biggest thing you can have in the post,” Miller said about using both hands. “A lot of times, the opening is to one side or the other. If you can exploit that, it’s a huge advantage.”

DeWolfe said the Sailors wouldn’t be 3-4 overall without Miller’s influence on the team. The team heads to Wyoming Thursday for a tournament in Green River, one that usually draws the top teams from the state.

And Miller will have a huge say in how the Sailors do. 

“He’s the first to tell you he’s not the most gifted athlete,” DeWolfe said. “But he’s absolutely worked and worked and worked to be the best he can be. He’s the leader of our team on and off the court.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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