SHELBYVILLE — "Malcolm Miller is a better kid than he is a basketball player," said Shelbyville boys basketball coach Bob Herdes.
That is saying a lot about the school's all-time leading scorer, one who averaged a JG-TC-area high 27.4 points per game with a low game of 19 points and a high game of 37. He scored in double-figures in his last 59 games and in 103 of his 112 career games. He finished with 2,397 points, which ranks 41st in the history of high school basketball in Illinois.
Miller, a 6-4 senior guard, averaged a double-double, pulling down 11.1 rebounds per game.
He also averaged 3.9 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. He led the entire JG-TC area in scoring and rebounding. He was 303-of-577 (.525) from the field, which also led the Rams, who were 6-1 in the Central Illinois Conference. He was 72-of-186 (.387) from 3-point range with the 72 3s the most on the team. At the free-throw line, he was 116-of-152 (.763) and he was 231-of-391 for a team-high .591 shooting percentage.
For his accomplishments, Miller has been named the 37th annual JG-TC Player of the Year. He is the fourth to earn the honor in back-to-back years joining Casey-Westfield graduate Brandon Wolfe (2013, 2014), D.J. Throneburg, also a Casey-Westfield grad (2001, 2002) and Arcola's Chad Graves (1989, 1990). Arthur's Mark Edmundson is the only other person to win it twice (1984 and 1986).
Shelbyville finished 24-5 overall. It was the Rams' best season since winning the Class A (two-class system) title in 1995-96, going 34-1.
He improved in points, rebounds and blocked shots from his junior year where he averaged 24.7, 9.1 and 1.2, respectively.
"He improved in everything," said Herdes. "The basic things he improved on were his strength, quickness and his leadership ability. He was more of a vocal leader, which is not his nature, but he realized he needed to do it. He was very willing to pass. If he was double-teamed, he would pass. I know he would give up some of his personal stuff to win more games."
Miller attributes the fact that he improved to working out more, saying he lifted weights three times a week with Eric Hobbie of The Zone Fitness Center in Shelbyville as his trainer.
Herdes said of his defense, "His lateral movement and quickness improved. He has good shot blocking ability. All of that comes from his conditioning."
Miller has played AAU since he was in the sixth grade and last year played for the St. Louis Jets, a team of 13 players, based in Belleville, and 17-year-olds that played around the Midwest.
"I didn't have a lot of motivation to do it when I was in the sixth grade," said Miller. "My dad told me to go and do it, and I fell in love with basketball after that."
He played in about 50 games for the Jets last summer and took part in open gyms at Shelbyville as well.
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"The speed of the game is so much faster," said Miller. "It helped me so much."
Herdes said, "The only thing not good about AAU is that Malcolm is a team player, and sometimes in the AAU you get to be more selfish. It helped him to play better competition."
Miller said of setting the school record, "It is a tremendous honor. I have been hearing about guys that have come through like Larry Hinton (who held the previous record in 1962) and Rich Beyers and to be at the top of the list is a huge honor for me."
As for the many other awards, the humble Miller said, "I had a fun year playing the all of the guys, and that is what was the most important to me."
During the season Miller said the highlights were the Vandalia Holiday Tournament championship, a 62-61 win over the host school. It was the first time the Rams had won the tournament since 1994.
"That was one of the most fun games of the year," said Miller. "To do something that had not been done in over 20 years was amazing. Beating Decatur St. Teresa (55-49) again and Tuscola (62-55) were highlights also and even though we lost to Central A&M (59-43), it was a fun atmosphere with the gym packed and standing room only. All of the time spent playing in open gyms paid off for all of us."
Miller was a unanimous first-team all-Central Illinois Conference player and was a third-team all-Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Class 2A All-State player and a first-team Associated Press Class 2A All-State player. He was the MVP of the Vandalia Holiday Tournament. He earned team MVP honors as well as the leading assist and rebound awards.
When Miller was in the sixth grade, he watched the 2012-13 team, coached by Shelbyville grad Mike Steers and including his cousin Nate Standerfer along with Brody Bence, Tucker Schwengel, Darin Breeden and Jake Keown.
"I watched them play and I thought that would be fun to (play in high school)," said Miller.
Miller averaged 21.6 points (tied for 20th all-time in the state) and 8.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.9 blocked shots per game while shooting 46 percent from the field, including .336 from 3-point range and 74 percent from the free-throw line. He helped the Rams go 73-39 (.652) during his high school career. The 908 field goals he made (out of 1,971 shots) is sixth all-time.
Other players from Shelbyville who have won the award are Rich Beyers, who won it in 1997, the first year the Rams were in the JG-TC area, and in 2008 Jay Nottingham was named.
Miller, the son of Jill and Clay Miller, plans to study business and sports marketing and is hoping to play basketball next year. He has been invited to play in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-Star game in June.
"He meant everything to the program, said Herdes. "He is a perfect example of doing hard work and how it paid off."