Starring roles in parent trek; Travelers: I-95 has become as familiar as their driveway to Mick and Rose Miller as they follow the fortunes of sons Danny at Maryland and Greg at Delaware; From the perimeter

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Mick and Rose Miller have been to more than 30 college basketball games this season, split nearly evenly between trips to watch Danny, the youngest of their three sons, play as a freshman for the University of Maryland, and to watch Greg, their middle son, play for the University of Delaware.

They have gone to as many as two games in one day -- Dec. 27, when the Terrapins played host to South Carolina State and the Blue Hens played at Virginia -- and have gone on as little as four hours' sleep after getting back home to Mount Holly, N.J., at 2 in the morning.

And their plans to renew the lease on Rose's minivan?

"We can't," she said. "We've put too many miles on it."

A recent weekend was typical.

It began early Saturday morning with a three-hour ride for a Maryland home game against Virginia. It ended Sunday afternoon with a two-hour ride home after Delaware's road game against Towson. They saw both their sons' teams win and watched each of them experience an afternoon of varying emotions.

Their seats at Cole Field House are next to those of Edna Hughes, the mother of Maryland freshman Lonny Baxter. Shortly after the Millers arrive, a few minutes before tipoff, the courtside rumor spreads that Baxter will be making the first start of his college career.

"Did Lonny say anything?" Rose Miller asks Hughes.

Hughes shakes her head, but a few minutes later, the rumor turns out to be true. Baxter, who has become something of a crowd favorite in College Park this season, is greeted with a wild ovation that seems to be louder than for any of the other starters. Among those standing and cheering the loudest are the Millers.

Being a parent of a college basketball player often means being part of a support group. This is familiar territory for Rose, a nurse, and Mick Miller, a comptroller for an engineering firm who played at Muhlenberg College before graduating in 1970.

They have spent the better part of the past decade following their sons' college games, first going to watch Michael, now a 27-year-old commodities broker in New York, play at Muhlenberg, a Division III school in Allentown, Pa., and starting again last year when Greg was a redshirt freshman.

"It's probably a little easier now," says Mick Miller, who coached many of his sons' teams before they reached high school. "I was closer to it with Michael. I realize now that I can't do anything to help them anymore."

This has been a normal freshman year for Danny Miller. There have been more big moments than big games -- like the day he hit two straight threes to fuel Maryland's first-half comeback against Stanford in December -- and long stretches when he has barely gotten off the bench.

"It's been a little bit of an adjustment," says Rose Miller. "But you realize that he's a freshman and his time will come."

Somewhat unexpectedly, Miller's time comes against Virginia. He enters the game with nearly seven minutes gone in the first half and immediately watches Virginia's Adam Hall go by him and get fouled. But things get better as a steal by Baxter leads to a short jumper in the lane for Miller.

Happy ending

The game becomes Miller's best so far as a Terrapin. After hitting all three of his shots in the first half, then missing his first three attempts in the second, his three-pointer with 1: 22 remaining in the game gives Maryland a 10-point lead and helps quiet the pesky Cavaliers. Miller finishes with 11 points in 19 minutes.

"It was kind of nice to see him play like that again," says Mick Miller.

It is interesting to watch Rose and Mick Miller watch their son. Unlike most fans, they sit when others around them jump out of their seats. The first time Rose gets up is to cheer when Baxter makes a power dunk and is fouled. The only time Mick gets up is when Danny yanks the ball away from Virginia's Willie Dersch.

"I'm a coach first and a parent second," jokes Mick Miller. "Anybody can shoot the ball."

The Millers have a longer than usual wait for their son after the game. Danny Miller is one of the last to leave the locker room after doing several waves of post-game interviews, then is surrounded by those looking for his autograph.

The topic of discussion between parents and son after the game?

"We have to see if he wants to go with us to dinner," says Rose Miller.

Will Danny join them to see Greg play the next day? No chance. The game against Towson, scheduled for noon, has been moved back an hour. "It's too early," says Rose.

Switch of leagues

A little less than 20 hours later, the Millers have changed clothes and worlds. They have made their way to the Towson Center.

Mick has switched from a red sweatshirt with a Maryland insignia to a blue pullover with a Delaware logo. The atmosphere at the two games is markedly different.

"But it's about the same level of excitement," says Mick, who with his wife is part of a large contingent that follows the Blue Hens to road games along the I-95 corridor.

It is an afternoon of mixed emotions for the Millers, who watch Delaware win easily as their middle son struggles mightily. Greg Miller has recently lost his starting job as the team's shooting guard and, with it, the confidence in his shot. He misses all four shots he takes and fails to score in playing 15 minutes.

"He's going through a bit of a tough time right now," says his father, as he waits for Greg after the game. "But he'll come through it."

After visiting with their son for a while, the Millers head home once more to get ready for the work week. This is Mick Miller's busiest time of the year, both professionally and personally, but he has been doing the juggling for a long time.

Last year, the Millers watched Danny play in the New Jersey State high school tournament at Princeton one day, then hopped a plane to Chicago the next.

"I don't think I could get the time to go to the ACC tournament," says Mick, who has a satellite dish at home to watch games not on network television. "But I wouldn't mind going if [the Terps] make it to the championship game."

Danny Miller says that his decision to attend Maryland didn't have as much to do with the proximity of the campus to his home in New Jersey as with his comfort level. The same, he says, was true with Greg.

"We just wanted to go where we both could play and it ended up we were close to home," said Danny Miller, who also considered Virginia, Stanford and Michigan. "But I think it's good to have them here for support."

As happens in many families, the youngest of the siblings turns out to be the best athlete in the family. Mick Miller says it comes from trying to keep up with your older brothers. Danny also had another advantage.

"He was not only the youngest, but he also turned out to be the biggest," the father said of his 6-foot-8 son, who has grown to be five inches taller than his middle brother and seven inches taller than his oldest.

The Millers look forward to the day when Danny plays a more prominent role at Maryland.

They know that their new friend, Edna Hughes, will be in a similar situation with her son, Lonny. (In Baxter's case, it comes sooner, with Obinna Ekezie sidelined for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon.)

"Right now, they're here to support the older players," said Mick Miller. "But you haven't seen anything yet. Wait until they're seniors and they're the ones who are All-ACC."

Three more years.

Many more games.

And thousands more miles to go.

Pub Date: 2/17/99

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