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College Basketball

Molded on the blacktop courts in DC, Morgan State men’s basketball’s Malik Miller stands tall as rebounding machine

In the aftermath of Morgan State shooting guard Malik Miller’s 16-point, 19-rebound, five-assist and three-steal performance in an 83-66 victory over the Coppin State men’s basketball team Saturday night, teammate Isaiah Burke did a double take when informed of Miller’s jaw-dropping number of rebounds.

“Tonight?” said Burke, no slouch himself with a game-high 30 points. Turning to Miller standing about a free throw away, Burke shouted, “You had 19 rebounds?!”

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Without pause, Miller replied, “It’s not about the rebounds. It’s about the team.”

That’s the typical answer from a fifth-year senior who has experienced the high of reaching the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament final two years ago and the low of finishing 11th out of 12 in the league standings four years ago. This season is one of those highs.

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In Morgan State's 83-66 win against Coppin State on Saturday, Malik Miller compiled 16 points, a career-high 19 rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Miller ranks 13th among all NCAA Division I players in rebounding with 10.1 per game, and at a listed height of 6 feet, 4 inches, he is the shortest player among the top 125 rebounders in the country. In addition, he leads Morgan State (9-8 overall, 3-0 MEAC) in per-game assists (4.1), steals (2.2) and minutes (33.7) and ranks second in points (18.6).

But Miller’s humility is not a mask. It’s a way of life deeply embedded in his character.

“I know that anything can be taken away from me tomorrow,” he said. “So I just live with a chip on my shoulder. I’ve got to remain level — never too high, never too low.”

Burke, a senior shooting guard who has played with Miller for five years, said he has tried to get his teammate “to be conceited.”

“But he doesn’t,” Burke said with a grin. “He’s real humble. … I’ll say, ‘You know you had a certain amount of points, right?’ I’ll just be messing with him. He’s been humble since Day 1.”

That attitude has endeared Miller to coach Kevin Broadus, who called him “our backbone.”

“There’s the old saying, ‘Follow the leader,’ and he’s our leader, and the guys follow behind him,” Broadus said. “He wills us to win. He’s been doing a good job for the last four years at it, and this happens to be his senior year, but he’s really taking the next step.”

One of those steps involves Miller’s prowess on the glass. He has improved his rebounding average every season, but has been especially overpowering this winter as he is tied for eighth in the nation in double-doubles with nine.

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Miller’s career-high 19 rebounds against Coppin State are tied for the 10th most by a Division I player in a single game this season.

With 778 career rebounds, Miller ranks sixth in school history. He also ranks third in steals with 172, seventh in games with 116 and 15th in points with 1,209.

“I was like 10 years old playing against grown men,” said Malik Miller, pictured in 2020. “I was out there on the blacktop courts, and it was physical, rough. You get thrown down and don’t get any calls. I was the shortest one and the skinniest one. … So I had to go and grab it and take it. That’s just how I always did it.”

Miller credited his childhood in Washington with helping him develop into a ferocious rebounder.

“I was like 10 years old playing against grown men,” he said. “I was out there on the blacktop courts, and it was physical, rough. You get thrown down and don’t get any calls. I was the shortest one and the skinniest one. … So I had to go and grab it and take it. That’s just how I always did it.”

Miller’s rebounding ability continues to mystify his teammates.

“He has a gift for getting rebounds, and he can do it every single night,” Burke said. “I don’t know how he does it. We all wonder the same thing.”

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Some factors that Miller uses to his advantage are 8-inch hands and a 33-inch vertical jump. Broadus said Miller has two other ingredients: determination and court awareness.

“If you’ve got heart and you can go get the ball, that’s part of it,” Broadus said. “And then the IQ is to position yourself every time when the ball goes up. He’s just got a nose for the ball. Not everybody’s like that. I’m not going to say he’s Dennis Rodman, but he’s getting numbers like Dennis Rodman. He’s probably the best rebounder I’ve coached in 30-something years. I’ve never seen anybody like him.”

Taller opponents don’t faze Miller. In fact, he seems to relish the challenge.

“There’s a lot of tall kids, but some people don’t have the grit and the heart that I’ve got,” he said. “I just look at it like, ‘Height doesn’t matter, skill doesn’t matter.’ A lot of people don’t have the dog in them. So I’m going to get it no matter how big you are, and that’s just my mindset.”

“The dog” always wants more and the same goes for Miller. Even after his 19-rebound showing against the Eagles, he wasn’t entirely satisfied.

“They’re great numbers, but there’s someone out there that grabbed 20 boards tonight and there’s someone out there that grabbed 21 rebounds tonight,” he said. “I feel like I’ve just got to keep pushing and keep getting better.”

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Coppin State coach Juan Dixon joked that Miller might be shorter than his listed height, but was a giant against his team.

“Going into the game, we said, ‘We’ve got to keep him off the glass, and we’ve got to compete,’” Dixon said. “I love Malik Miller as a player. He [Broadus] has a winner in Malik Miller. That kid is going to earn a living playing basketball because of his guts, big heart and because he’s a winner. Kudos to him. I tip my hat to Malik Miller. I really love his game.”

At 3-0, the Bears are the only undefeated team in the MEAC. With upcoming games against Howard (10-10, 2-1) on Saturday and back-to-back league tournament champion Norfolk State (12-6, 2-1) on Monday, Miller knows Morgan State has a chance to capture the program’s fourth tournament crown and first since 2010.

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to do what I can to not let us fall down,” he said. “I feel like if I keep doing that and keep working on what I’ve got to work on, we’ll be in the position that we’re in today.”

Hartford at Morgan State

Wednesday, 6 p.m.

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Radio: HSRN


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