Darius Miles leaped high into the air with the ball cocked behind his head, his teammates on the bench rose with him, and just when it looked like he was about to throw down a thundering dunk, he lightly dropped the ball through the rim to give Theodore Roosevelt a two-point lead in the final minute.
“I was so mad I didn’t dunk it,” Miles said after Theodore Roosevelt beat Thurgood Marshall in the Uptown Hoopfest on January 6. “I could have brought the whole place down with that dunk.”
The 6-foot-6 sophomore settled for giving his team an advantage it never gave up, and the play made him look, for a moment, like a rangy forward with guard skills. So did the other plays he pulled off in the closing minutes of the 66-58 win: setting up three critical three-pointers off kick-out passes, knifing into the lane each time to draw the attention of Thurgood Marshall’s defense. But Miles, who was the tallest player on the court, is not a forward with guard skills. He is simply a guard, even if he has always been one of the tall kids and has the length to be a viable high school big man.
His size and skill, with a reliable midrange jumper and smooth handles, is already attracting a list of Division I schools. Miles has yet to receive an offer, but he has been recruited by Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Georgetown, Rhode Island and George Mason, among other schools. He has received mail from Xavier. Earlier in the fall, he was an invited attendee for Villanova’s Midnight Madness, a season kickoff event. He also went to Mason Madness at George Mason. This all came after Miles shined on the AAU circuit this summer while playing for the D.C. Blue Devils’ 15-and-under team. Now the 16-year-old is averaging 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game, and establishing himself as one of the best young prospects in Washington, D.C.
“With his size, he can see over the defense and really distribute the ball well,” Roughriders Coach Rob Nickens said. “He is a really unselfish player, too. A lot of the time, I want him looking for his shot a lot more than he already does. It’s really, really only the beginning for him right now.”
Miles is part of a first generation of players who entered an entirely changed basketball landscape at the start of high school. From the NBA down, “big men” are shooting threes and handling the ball, and guards can be found in increasingly bigger bodies. Two of the NBA’s best rookie point guards are much taller than players who have traditionally played the position: the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons is 6-10, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball is 6-6.
When Miles was growing up, doctors told him he would probably end up standing 6 feet, 4 inches when he was older. He and his dad always watched college basketball, and his dad pointed out that 6-4 players were typically perimeter players who could shoot and drive to the rim. So Miles kept developing guard skills, even as he outgrew his peers and eventually inched to 6-6 at the start of high school. That is how the room’s tallest kid, with floor-scraping arms, became a guard instead of a post player or flex forward, which is a hybrid position that combines size, speed and shooting ability. One mid-major college coach who has scouted Miles this summer and winter said that the sophomore is intriguing because of how he runs offenses and his potential to be an “extremely versatile defender at the next level.”
Against Thurgood Marshall, Miles showcased his ability to navigate the court without blazing speed and finished 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. He uses an understanding of angles to attack defenses and operate in transition, and his long frame to shield the ball from smaller defenders. He also draws a lot of fouls, and has shot eight or more free throws in four games this season.
As Theodore Roosevelt (17-2) moves deeper into conference play in the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association, Miles is squarely focused on improving his defense. But who, as a 6-6 guard in a league that often offers shorter centers and forwards, is he working on defending? Other guards? Forwards?
“LeBron James,” Miles said through laughter. “Because then everything else would feel easy. When you’re a big guard like me, you have to be ready to do anything.”
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