Alabama star Brandon Miller: ‘I want to be known as one of the all-time greats’

The top freshman in college basketball resides in Tuscaloosa, and has propelled the Alabama Crimson Tide to the No. 4 spot in the AP Top 25.

I’m talking about 6-foot-9, 200-pound Brandon Miller, who is averaging 19.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and recently earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors. Among the highlights of the five-star forward’s season? A 24-and-9 performance in Portland against Michigan State, a 24-point, eight-rebound, five-assist game in a win over Memphis, a 36-point game against Gonzaga and, most recently, a 19-and-7 outing in a blowout win about Kentucky.

Miller, ranked No. 14 in the 247 Sports recruiting class, has shined against any competition. His combination of size, speed and shooting is unmatched in the sport, and he’ll hear his name called by Adam Silver very soon at the Barclays Center during the NBA Draft in June. Not only has Miller played at an elite level, take it from John Calipari and Tom Izzo, but his overall demeanor extends beyond his freshman years.

We got a taste of that maturity last week as Miller sat down with FOX Sports for an exclusive Q&A. You’ll discover his love for cars, his friendship with one of baseball’s greatest players, what he wants his legacy to be, and more.

Your father, Darrell, played tight end at Alabama in the early 1990s. What kind of influence has he had on your life and how good is it to follow in his footsteps?

I got the question: did I pick Alabama because he went here? I don’t think that was the reason I chose Alabama. I chose Alabama for another reason he chose to come here. Of course, being my father plays a big role in my decisions. He has been there for me every day, behind me in all my decisions. He was involved in all the long conversations I had with the coaches. There wasn’t really, “Hey, I think you should go here.” It was more like, “I’m with whatever you want to do.”

When did you fall in love with basketball?

I grew up playing three sports from the age of 3. Basketball started in the kitchen in the refrigerator. I didn’t really have a basketball hoop outside of where I was (in Nashville), and I wasn’t old enough to go out back then. But I remember dribbling the ball inside the house and kicking the ball against the wall.

What other sports did you play?

Baseball and football.

Was basketball your biggest passion? Have you dabbled in playing any of the other long-term sports instead of hoops?

I played with it a bit. At one point and time, I thought I was going to be a baseball player. But then I started growing up and I couldn’t fit into anything anymore, so I thought basketball was the best way out right now.

Do you still like baseball?

I still like baseball. I love watching my son Mookie Betts. He’s one of the best players in the league right now. It’s pretty good to see. Do I still love it? That’s all right. I wouldn’t play it now because I think I’m in a better situation now than anything else.

Is Mookie Betts just your favorite player or do you really know him?

I actually know him. I see him a lot in Nashville, and we have a very close bond from the same area.

How often do you communicate?

I mean, he has his own things to worry about, but look at my games. We’re in a group chat together, so he’ll text me “good luck” or “good game.”

Brandon Miller tops Andy Katz’s Freshman Tiers

Brandon Miller tops Andy Katz's Freshman Tiers

Andy Katz shares his top candidates in the Freshman of the Year race, with a special focus on the Alabama star.

What made you fall in love with basketball?

Well, what made me fall in love was the outcome that can possibly happen. Just, make it to the NBA. And the goal is not just to get to the NBA. I want to build my own career in the NBA. This is what motivates me. It motivates me to keep going and keep doing what I’m doing now. I think people nowadays just congratulate themselves for making it to the league. I don’t think they necessarily want to build their career in the league. It’s about getting to the league for them.

What kind of driving does this bring?

A very hard disk. You work every day and I love to work. For me, it’s treatment every morning, then practice, then food. I’d say that’s a good life to live.

what time do you get up

If we have an 8:30 a.m. movie, I try to get here an hour before the movie to get a treatment and get my body right. Afterwards, have breakfast here and go to the cinema, have a snack. Then once I get out of the movie, it’s straight to basketball.

Then practice, and after practice?

Some more treatment to get my body back, then some more food and another workout for me to keep my frame perfect.

Do you do a one-on-one session like this every day?

Yes, basically every day. If it’s not with a graduate assistant, it’s in the gun. I want to maintain my perfect jump shot (shooting 43% from both the field and the 3-point line).

What did you see in Coach Oats and his staff that made you say you could be a one-and-done at Alabama?

It was the bond Coach Oats made with me and my family. It came early at the end of my junior year of high school. That bond was established and also goes back to Coach (Bryan) Hodgson. Coach Hodgson took me with the other coaches once I came to visit, and since then, they’ve all been in touch.

What was different about Oats and his staff from others?

I feel like a lot of coaches, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but now they get caught up in too much of their own stuff instead of talking to the recruits. One thing Coach Oats did, he reached out to me constantly. A week went by where he contacted me every day. That was the bond we created.

Was Alabama the first school to contact you?

My first contact was actually Tennessee State University, an HBCU. The coach there is Brian (Collins), he’s my cousin. Now let’s look beyond basketball. Now it’s all family stuff. I know I can go to him and talk about anything. I know he will always be there for me.

Why college basketball for you instead of G League Ignite or another developmental program?

Well, I took a tour of the Ignite facility (in Nevada) just to see how they operate out there, but I felt that college was the best route to hone my craft and get better.

Why did you feel that way?

Well, I know in the G League, you live on your own. In the G League, you have more freedom. Here, I wouldn’t say you’re forced to do things, but you have structure here. We have meal plans. I mean, they have meal plans in the G League, but I highly doubt they eat every two hours. (River)

Do you eat every two hours? what are you eating

Well, it’s not always a full meal. It could just be a snack. Chick-Fil-A could be a meal, and today, as I’m talking to you, we have Popeyes. We have chicken tenders, fries and chocolatecovered strawberries I’m going to get some chocolate covered strawberries after this interview.

So, I heard you really like cars. How did this start?

I can’t even tell you where it started. One day I was watching YouTube and it popped up. I was like, man, I want one of those cars. And what do you know? I started looking at other things. Then engines and mods got involved, and now I’m obsessed with cars – mostly muscle cars, nothing foreign. I now drive a Dodge Charger and love it.

Back to Nate Oats, what’s it all about?

He is all about us. All our technical team is about us. They don’t do anything they feel we couldn’t handle. Of course, they coach us a lot because it’s all love outside of basketball because that’s how our bond is outside of basketball. That translates into how we play on the court, so I mean, that’s really it.

Who do you compare your game to?

Probably Paul George of the Indiana Pacers. I watch a lot of her film before her injury, and I feel for her a lot, too. But I don’t go away from what I hear, I sign up for what I am.

How much do you envision Draft Day and that dream coming true?

Right now, I’m taking the slow process one step at a time. I try not to look so far into the future, because I think everything is now. Until that moment comes, I want to appreciate and live in the moment.

Someday, when someone talks about Brandon Miller, what do you want them to say?

I don’t want to be just known as a player. Look at LeBron [James]. He’s not just a basketball player. He is a person outside of basketball. I don’t just want to be a player. Of course, I want to be known as one of the all-time greats on the court. That’s how I’m wired and how I’m working to get there.

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers sports in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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