Portland's Miles has big role in Kansas' push to Final Four
Monday was supposed to be Kansas' glorious moment.
The Jayhawks thought they would be celebrating the first NCAA title for coach Roy Williams, with Portland's Aaron Miles at point guard, surrounded by Drew Gooden, Nick Collison, Jeff Boschee and Kirk Hinrich.
Instead, after a semifinal loss to Maryland, the Jayhawks watched Maryland beat Indiana 64-52 for the crown.
'With our talent and everything on our squad, we felt we had the team to do it,' says Miles, who had 12 points and 10 assists and led a spirited rally against Maryland. 'It definitely hurts.'
The Terrapins struggled to beat Kansas 97-88 on Saturday. Maryland led by 20 with 6:10 to play, but the Jayhawks rallied to within 87-82 with 2:04 left. Then Miles was called for traveling, a key turnover.
But, clearly, the Jayhawks wouldn't have reached the semis without a huge contribution from their freshman out of Jefferson High.
Miles averaged 7.1 points and 6.8 assists this season, and he had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.25-to-1, which is exceptional for any point guard, freshman or senior. He shot .404 from the floor and .793 from the line, making 10 of 12 foul shots against Maryland. And, in the biggest game of the year, Miles would not quit.
'He was the one who brought us back,' Collison said. 'He just kept telling everyone to keep playing. The way he played and stepped up kept us going.'
Says Miles: 'You can always come back. Depends on how much you work for it.'
Speaking of coming back, Gooden has hinted he'll skip his senior year and go to the NBA, and Collison and Hinrich might leave early as well. Boschee graduates.
Miles will take on more of the scoring load next season. Miles needs to improve his outside shooting and 'get back to how I shot in high school, with a lot of confidence.'
Fellow frosh Keith Langford and Wayne Simien might end up in the starting lineup. Jeff Hawkins, a touted point guard, could push Miles for playing time.
Michael Lee, Miles' friend and former Jeff teammate, expects to get more playing time at the wing forward position vacated by Boschee. Lee says he needs to get in better shape and show he can shoot and defend.
Miles played his best in the postseason.
'I got a little more comfortable,' he says. 'I didn't want to be part of the reason we didn't win it.
'I guess I'm happy' with the season, he adds. 'I would've been a lot happier if we had won. All in all, I had a fun year, learning from coach Williams, who's a great man. He's taught me a lot about the game, and I got some more years with him.'
It'll take a long time for Miles to forget his first experience with major-college basketball. His mother, father, brother, a couple of cousins and other family members attended the Final Four in Atlanta.
On Tuesday, a huge gathering of fans honored the Jayhawks (33-4) at KU's Memorial Stadium. A B-1 bomber did a flyover.
'It was beautiful,' Miles says. 'They love us around here.'
Next week, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce will coordinate a parade for the team.
Miles, who is taking microeconomics and geology among his classes, will spend part of July at home in Portland before returning to KU for summer school.
Next season, Miles might ascend to all-Big 12 Conference status, even with Texas' T.J. Ford and Oklahoma's Hollis Price in the league.
'My goal is always to win a national championship,' he says. 'We should be pretty good next year. We'll be well coached, as usual.'