Chris Miller is a 24 year old 193cm guard from Brooklyn, New York that is playing his first season with German Regionaliga 2 team Giessen Pointers. He completed his rookie season in Germany with VfL Bensheim (2.Regionalliga). Before coming to Europe, he got semi-pro league experience in the states with the jamestown jackals. He played college ball at Salem international University and graduated in 2015. He spoke to German Hoops recently about his season with the Giessen Pointers.
Chris, thanks for talking to German Hoops. You’re playing your second season in Germany and first with the Giessen Pointers. Last season it was sheer excitement about playing the game you love. What kind of a feeling is it now playing your second season? Has the excitement calmed down a bit or is it still as much there?
Thank you for taking your time to interview me. I still play the game the same way, every day that I get to live out my dream is a blessing and I want to live it to the fullest. The excitement is still the same since I was 13 years old in my first organized game.
You had such a strong season last year with Bensheim, one would have thought you would make the next step to the Regionalliga or Pro B. Did you not get offers from higher teams and what is your goal as a player this season?
After the Season finished I did not have many contacts. Even though I had much success individually, my team did not do very well. In this profession you have to be a winner and I was given an opportunity to lead the Pointers to a championship this year. The offer from the Pointers was great. Under Coach Kostic I felt I could add a lot more aspects to my game before moving to the next level.
How do you stay on the ground now in your second season not taking your success for granted. Do you remind yourself that there are 1000´s of guys wishing they were in your shoes?
Growing up I was always the underdog. I always had to work hard for what I got. I have seen many people before me come and go because they got too comfortable on top. I always told myself I would continue to work hard no matter if I was number 1 or 15 on my team. I do not take it for granted at all. Seeing the guys wishing they were in my shoes also adds fuel to the fire but most of the fuel is from my own passion to be one of the best players I could be.
Last season you played for Bensheim and this season for the Giessen Pointers. The big difference this year is that your playing for a championship. Do you sense there is an urgency for this club to prove that they can be just as successful as the Giessen 46ers and Giessen II teams?
Yes, this year does bring a sense of urgency. The Pointers want to get back up to the Pro B level. For three years they have fallen just short of winning the championship. The managers brought me in to help us get over the hump. I feel we have a very talented roster to win and I will do my best to get us to the top.
Giessen started out very well this season and are battling teams like Eintracht Frankfurt and Koblenz for the top. How confident are you at the moment that the club will be at the top when all is said and done in this season?
I am very confident we will finish on top of the league this year. Our roster is very talented. We have a good number of young hungry guys, decorated veterans and a great coach in Dejan Kostic . This is what it takes to build a championship team. Our team chemistry is getting stronger and our key players are returning from early season injuries. I have 100% confidence in my team.
The club can rack up a lot of points quickly, but how key is the experience in a league like the Regionalliga 2? You have big time veterans with Daniel Doerr, Felix Rotaru who combined have 72 years of age and younger Malte Herwig who played 9 BBL games for Goettingen and Wurzburg and has 51 Pro B games under his belt.
To have so many guys on our team with big time professional experience is a blessing. Every day I learn from these guys on what it takes to be successful. I feel to have this much experience on a regional league team is a big advantage for us.
Giessen does allow too many points on occasion. What things does the team still need to work on the defensive end to become an even better team?
I think we need a better overall focus for 40 minutes. We have a tendency to take some minutes off and allow other teams back in the game. When we are focused Our defense is great we just have to understand each possession is crucial and finish teams off when we have the chance.
Let´s talk about your game. You won the scoring crown and MVP title last season and leading the league in scoring again now. Do you feel pressure to keep up the stellar play or are you able to zone that out?
I hold myself to a high standard because I know what I bring to the table and how hard I work. I am down in points this year. But playing for this team has turned me into a more all around player. My main focus this year is to win a championship. Its nice to lead in individual points but a championship by any means is the ultimate goal.
Your scoring is down a bit from last season in Bensheim, but your averaging four assists more this season. How is your role different this season and do you have to be more of a playmaker this season?
Coming into this season I wanted to work on being a playmaker lpreferably secondary. Due to early season injuries to our playmakers, I became the primary point guard for the first time in my career. My coach has really worked with me on seeing the floor and working the pick and roll. Playing point guard has really opened up my game. Yes my points are down but my assists rebounds and steals are up. I am proud of that because it shows I can bring more to the table than just score.
In our last interview you stated this. “. In this off season I am going to work on my whole game. My goal is to be complete player who can impact the game in every way”. Do you feel that your hard work from last summer has paid off so far this season?
Yes the work I put in this summer has paid off big time. After last season I knew what to expect from the European game and I planned my workouts strictly for what I would be seeing in this league. Strengthening the things I was successful at last year and my conditioning were my main objectives.
You also stated in our last interview that your IQ really increased last season. You stated also last season that “. I learned situations, when to pass, when to take over and score , when to step back and let my teammates take lead, how to deal with tough situations”. How can you build from last season to take your basketball IQ to a totally new level?
Last year My game was solely from a shooting guards perspective. Playing the point guard means I am responsible for almost everything that happens on the court. I have to share the ball equally, look for mismatches and advantages we might have. Play to the hot hands on my team and also keep myself as a threat. Very tough to learn in a few months but I feel like my IQ has boosted another level.
In our very first interview you stated that a hidden strength in your game is being a spark plug. What besides scoring the ball is something you like to associate your spark plug qualities to most in your game?
I work on being the spark plug on defense. I take pride in getting a key defensive stop or shutting down the opponents best players. I also like to bring energy to my teammates build up their confidence create a spark in them to play their games and not worry about making mistakes. Being a vocal leader and keeping the energy up.
Talk a little about the benefits you have being in Giessen. How much can you profit from the Giessen II team. How do you feel has your game profited most from being able to see these players practice a lot and just let it carry over into your game?
Being able to practice with Giessen2 is a blessing. I get to practice at a higher level of basketball. I get a sneak peek on what is required of the players so I can work on things with my team. Also it helps me create relationships that could aid my career in the future.
How much does a Jeril Taylor of Giessen II motivate you to not only get better, but to work harder than the next guy? What dealings have you had with him since you arrived in Giessen on and off the floor?
Me and Jeril are have very similar playing styles. Also we are put in new situations playing the point guard when we are normally shooting guards. We stay in contact often and support each other, we go to each others games and workout together on off days. Seeing him have success in a higher league motivates me to take advantage of my opportunities when I get a chance at a higher league. Much respect to him.
Even if it wasn´t long ago, you are a Howard Hoop veteran. How much fun has it been battling guys like Chris Neal and Ivan Vernon in Germany? How would you describe the competition level just between you guys?
Going against Chris Neal was very fun. It was great to see him leading his team and getting his career going. This game between us had a lot of added competition because of our Howard hoops background. Fighting for bragging rights.(which I currently hold at the moment). It is also great to see other Howard Hoops guys like Ivan Vernon, Ian Tevis and Phillip Jenkins dominating their respective leagues and doing it big for Our Howard Hoops family here in Germany.
You have a lot of free time in Giessen. Besides practicing and seeing the other guys for the Giessen teams play do you do any other work besides doing the gym and shooting routine? What other ways do you try to get better? Do you watch a lot of videos of other players to try to learn little tricks to add to your game?
On my free time I watch a lot of my game film to see what I can work on for the future. I also look up different players in my position to see what they that makes them successful. I am a big fan of film.
What has been your own personal opinion of how Lonzo Ball has started with the Los Angeles Lakers. He hasn´t lived up to the hype yet even though he has had some amazing games. Where will his game be when his rookie season ends?
I feel Lonzo Ball is very talented and will have a great career. I wish he would be more aggressive sometimes. It is hard to see a guy play 30 minutes a game and only score 3 points. However I feel he will be a front runner for rookie of the year because he will get more comfortable and get out of his shell.
here has been criticism of Russell Westbrook to be focusing more on rebounding to help inflate his stats and possibilities of getting triple doubles instead of focusing on his defensive assignments. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment to the player Russell Westbrook?
I feel Westbrooks Rebounding is great. I watch a lot of his games and he really battles for most of his rebounds. Also when a point guard grabs the rebounds it sparks the fast breaks easier so I have no problem with this tactic.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
I liked the draft this year my sleeper pics are Jayson Tatum and Dennis Smith JR.I think these guys will really have great careers and have a lot of maturity to be so young.
Where will the journey of the Houston Rockets go this season with Chris Paul and James Harden in the back court. Do they have enough to make a serious run at the title or is something missing?
I am rooting for the Rockets this year. I am a big Harden Fan and I think Chris Paul is at a point where he needs to win to be considered a great. I hope they can find success and become champions.
How do you rate the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade? Who got the better deal and which team will profit better in the long run?
At first I thought Isaiah Thomas won the trade but Now watching the Celtics I think Kyrie Irving has won the trade without question. I think they will be the next big contenders in the East.
Where will the journey of the Oklahoma Thunder go this season with Westbrook, George and Anthony? Can they make a serious run in the west?
I think they are all talented guys and with a bit more defensive focus I think they can be very dangerous. I would not count them out.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Justice League. It was a great movie I recommend anyone who is a Fan of action films go watch.
Thanks Chris for the chat.