John Carroll, the head coach of prep powerhouse and reigning NEPSAC champion Northfield Mount Hermon, has seen a lot of Ivy League recruits suit up for his Hoggers. The school has sent 16 different players to Ivy programs in the last five years alone.
Carroll thinks there’s a chance that Pete Miller could be the best of them all.
Yesterday morning the versatile, skilled 6'10" senior-to-be added his name to this impressive list of Northfield alums when he called Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson and informed him that he wanted to become a Tiger next season.
Last night I spoke with Carroll as well as Miller's AAU coach Michael Crotty, Jr. of Middlesex Magic. Their exclusive quotes and analysis plus links to player evaluations, photos and videos of Miller can all be found after the jump.
The 225 lb Miller attended Winchester High School in Massachusetts through his junior year but opted to become a “repeat junior” in order to play two seasons at NMH.
According to Crotty, Jr., who has known the newest Tiger since he was 12, Miller was being hotly pursued by many of Princeton’s rivals.
“Pretty much the entire Ivy and Patriot League plus some schools even higher had a lot of interest and offers for him,” he said. “I think if he keeps it up he’s going to have a chance to be really, really good. He’s a pretty polished kid right now.”
“He’s a very thoughtful, smart, polite, wonderful young man,” Crotty, Jr. offered. “He’s the kind of kid you want your sons to be friends with and probably want your daughters to date. On the court he’s really talented for a guy who is 6’10”. He can shoot the ball and has good back to the basket moves. He’s always had a good touch, good feet and can run the floor but his toughness and his defensive prowess has really grown in the past three years.”
"As nice a kid as he is, you always want the good kids to develop a little bit of a nasty streak when they play. Peter’s done that. I hope that he continues to do that. He was the defensive backbone for us this year, blocking about four shots a game and just gobbling up every defensive rebound."
Defense is an unexpected point of emphasis for Middlesex Magic, where Miller was the first player to go to the junior AAU nationals three times, playing alongside Patrick Connaughton of Notre Dame and Penn State’s Patrick Ackerman.
“I want to teach these guys things that help them become better players and help them become ready to play college basketball. I make sure that we defend really hard and when we get the rebound I like to outlet and run the ball, let the kids use their talents,” Crotty, Jr. said. “With a guy like Peter it is nice because he can actually run the floor. He’s not a big man who labors or lumbers. He can beat a lot of big people down the court and get them in transition.”
It isn’t all running and gunning once they grab the ball for Middlesex Magic however. “We do have a lot of designed, quick-hitting backdoor plays and he was the delivery man on a lot of them,” Crotty, Jr. remembered. “When Coach Earl was watching us a couple weeks ago, Peter had an organic backdoor pass – he threw a one-hand lefty pass off of an overplay – I said to my assistant, I’m sure Brian liked to see that play right there.”
Carroll as well spoke very highly of Miller’s ability. “He came to us as a post kid but he had the skills to play on the perimeter,” Carroll said. “With us we had him do that and he developed into a very strong inside/out player.”
“He’s a terrific passer,” Carroll continued. “We ran a two guard offense last year and we were really big. When Pete started we were 6’10”/6’9”/6’9” up front. We used him to post, we used him on the perimeter, we used him at the high post to do a lot of the ‘dribble at action.’ he was a good ‘pick and pop’ guy. He can finish strong around the rim so we really used him at all five positions at one time or another."
Playing for an impossibly deep team that had 14 scholarship level players on the roster last season, five of whom went Division I, Miller did not have as much responsibility on his shoulders.
While Carroll did not know Miller’s statistics off-hand, he did say that “Pete wasn’t asked to a tremendous amount of scoring. We had some really phenomenal scorers last year. I think we had six guys between nine and 14 points a game. Pete was probably like eight and change as far as points and I think he probably had about six rebounds a game.”
Next year will be “a significant difference for him,” Carroll anticipated. “He’s going to be asked to do a lot. He was asked to do a lot last year but he wasn’t called on to do it every single night. “
“We started last spring,” said Carroll of Miller’s transformation. “They day he arrived back from break I said to him ‘every time you touch the ball is now a scoring opportunity. I don’t want you conceding to anyone.’ When these guys played pickup he became a primary scorer where he previously was conceding to some guys who were really phenomenal scorers.”
Northfield Mount Hermon won 29 games last season and was ranked as high as third nationally. What has been a pipeline for qualified prospects to Ivy rosters hadn’t produced a Princeton player until yesterday.
Asked about this, Carroll responded, “There’s no particular reason why there haven’t been kids [from Northfield] that have gone to Princeton. A lot of our kids have visited. This is such a great match. I can’t imagine there being a better fit between a university, a basketball program and a player.”
In addition to basketball, Miller competed in the long jump and the high jump at Northfield.
“It was the first time he ever did the long jump and he came in second place in a meet,” Carroll remembered. “He did the high jump and he placed in a couple meets. He’s an athletic kid.”
Princeton’s recent Elite Camp was a factor in Miller’s decision, as both Miller and his coach were impressed with how Coach Henderson and his staff ran the camp and the program.
"I think that was important for him and I think it was important for Princeton to see what kind of commitment he was willing to make to get to their camp,” Carroll said. “That showed them he was serious. They were able to lay eyes on him to see how really skilled he is. It was significant.”
“They answered as many questions as a kid could possibly have,” recalled Carroll. “What is it like to be a student here? What is it like to be on the team here? Who are my teammates going to be? All the players were there. What kind of coaching am I going to get? I was at the camp too and it really helped me give advice and guidance to Peter because I was able to see what they’re doing.“
“I think they see him the way we saw him,” Carroll said when asked about how he envisioned Princeton utilizing Miller. “In a pinch he can play anywhere, that’s the real significant piece. He’s a tremendous passer off the dribble. He understands the ‘dribble at’ action where you’re dribbling at a guy in the corner and he may come behind for a pitch or he may go backdoor. He understands those things.”
“He can shoot a three. He can pull a big man out of the post. He can take advantage of a smaller guy in the post. I think they’re really going to have some fun in how they use him.”
Asked for more detail on Miller’s range, Carroll recalled a game versus then nationally top-ranked Brewster Academy, who NMH defeated in the NEPSAC semifinals. “Miller hit a couple big threes for us,” Carroll recounted.
Crotty, Jr. confirmed what Carroll shared, remarking “[Pete is] good with his back to the basket but he can shoot the ball really well up to 18 feet.”
It is also Miller’s ability to get easy baskets inside that makes him so valuable in Crotty, Jr’s eyes. “I know a lot of people think Princeton and they think a lot about big men handling the ball and shooting the ball,” Crotty, Jr. said. “He can do that for sure but it is also nice when you can put a big guy down on the block and ask him to give you a basket. He can score really well with his off hand as well as his right."
Asked about areas of improvement heading into his season, Crotty,Jr. struggled to find one. “I don’t think there’s a glaring weakness in his game,” he said. “His body has changed a lot. He’s bigger and stronger. I would be very excited if I had him coming to play college basketball for me in 14 months. That’s just going to be another full year under his belt of strength, conditioning and experience."
Having coached so many of Miller’s future foes on the prep school level, Carroll’s response when asked how Miller compared was both unexpected and filled with thrilling promise.
“He could end up being the best one of them all because he gets better every day and I haven’t seen that stop yet,” Carroll shared. “At 6’10”, he’s able to impact the game in the most different ways. Laurent Rivard at Harvard is a phenomenal shooter. Evan Cummins is a big-time athlete. Jvonte Brooks took Dartmouth’s team on his shoulders. There are a lot of guys who do a lot of different things but I think Pete has the most tools in his tool box.”
A tool box that the Princeton staff can’t wait to open in 2013.
The Recruit Scoop called Miller "a major get" for Princeton.
MaxPreps has box scores from some of Northfield Mount Hermon's 2011-12 games.
Wrote Rivals after Miller’s commitment: ”Miller looked stronger than when we had seen him during the high school season. That strength allowed him to play with more physicality around the rim, something that compliments his skill game very well."
After the Hoop Mountain's All-Academic Camp, NERR wrote: "Making a morning appearance, Miller was his consistant self. He excelled on the defensive end today, with his long arms proving to be too much for the opposition. His quick feet allowed him to effortlessly help on the weakside, something that does not come as naturally to many other bigs as it does to Miller."
ESPN Boston had the following blurb published after last year's AAU Nationals: "Peter Miller stood out for the Magic this Summer as he emerged as one of New England's best 2013 prospects. The 6'10 center can run the floor, has great back to the basket post game, and he is a terrific weak side shot blocker. He continues to improve in all aspects of his game including his jump shot and post defense, and he drew a variety of division 1 programs to come watch him put his skills on display."
ESPN HS Massachusetts placed Miller third team all-state.
You can read a testimonial from Miller on the Middlesex Magic site.
Miller is on Twitter. Follow him here.
Looking for videos? The Rush has a slew of Miller's AAU plays.
Miller is #31 in blue/white above.
Northfield Mount Hermon has an exhaustive YouTube page. Miller is #30 for the Hoggers. You can see him knock down a three early in this specific highlight package.