End of an era for Mitchell's Miller family basketball dynasty
There will always be a group of families directly linked to basketball in Mitchell.
Some of them who stick out are the Andersens, Morgans, Jacobsens and Youngs.
But one name stands out of Mitchell basketball through excellence, success and longevity more than any other.
No doubt, it's the Millers.
The legacy started in 1967, when Tom Miller came from Stickney to play for Dakota Wesleyan University.
"It seems so long ago," said Alan, Tom's younger brother.
Tom's brothers, Chris and Alan, followed their older sibling to Mitchell and also played for DWU, thus laying the foundation for the great things to come from the family who has helped shape basketball in the community.
Tom, 65, and Alan, 50, each have four children who have been a part of Kernel history. have been a part of Kernel history. Chris, 60, now lives in Louisville, Ky., and works as a pharmacist.
Tom's kids started the tradition in the mid-1990s, with three boys: Ryan, Jared and Mike. Tom's youngest, a girl, Chelsey, played on Mitchell High School's 2003 state championship team with her cousin, and Alan's oldest, Tara.
Two standout boys' basketball players came after Tara in Jordan and Jade.
Now, this generation of Millers at Mitchell High School wraps up with Macy, who is sending her family name out with a bang this year. She is a senior guard for the Mitchell girls' basketball team and is playing in her final state tournament this weekend.
Today, will be her final game as a high school player.
Macy is putting together one of the most prolific seasons in South Dakota high school basketball history, scoring 30.2 points per game and was named the South Dakota girls' Gatorade Player of the Year on Thursday. After her final game today, she will leave Mitchell and play for South Dakota State University's women's basketball team.
Combined, the 11 Millers have scored 13,653 total points for the Mitchell-based Kernels and Tigers. That number is prior to Macy taking the court Friday evening in Mitchell's state tournament semifinal game against Sioux Falls O'Gorman. After scoring 38 in a first-round game Thursday, Macy's career scoring total jumped to 1,856 points, a Mitchell High School record for boys' and girls' basketball.
With 703 points following the Kernels win in the quarterfinals Thursday, Macy surpassed Mike's Kernel-best season of 689 points in 1998. She still has two games to play.
Alan holds Dakota Wesleyan's career-scoring record with 2,920 points; Mike, who plays with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies, has the boys' record for the Kernels with 1,743 points.
"It's unbelievable what that family has done here," Don McLean, of Mitchell, said.
Don, who taught several of the Miller kids in middle school, and his wife Donna marveled at the point total after the Kernel girls' quarterfinal win Thursday in Brookings after Macy broke Mike's single-season Kernel scoring mark.
Mitchell, Millers and basketball
Even the most devoted basketball fan in Mitchell may have a hard time remembering the last time there wasn't a Miller playing for the Kernels. While there have been a few gaps without a Miller on a team since Tom came to town, most game programs have had a Miller somewhere on the roster.
Alan Miller said love of basketball in Mitchell has fed his family's affection for the game.
"There has been a culture here that my family has picked up and wanted to do well," Alan said. "Mitchell has been a great place for our kids to grow up because it's such a basketball crazy place."
The record books at Mitchell High School and on the campus of DWU are littered with the Miller name, while the banners at the Corn Palace are a testimony to a number of great Kernel teams that included a Miller standout. Mike Miller's No. 13 is the only number retired by Mitchell's basketball program and hangs on the north side of the Palace.
The eight kids who followed Tom and his brothers have combined for eight state titles for the Kernels. Six of the eight have been involved with at least one championship team.
"When Mike's (NBA) career comes to an end and Macy finishes up, it will start to sink in," Tom said, adding it will be a little strange to not have a Miller on a team in Mitchell after Jade — who recently finished his sophomore year of college — is done at DWU.
Jade may be the last of the Miller line to play on the Corn Palace floor for some time.
"It's an amazing family and the parents are amazing, too," former Mitchell basketball coach Gary Munsen said.
The members of the Miller basketball heritage learned from their siblings, cousins and parents when it came to being a Kernel or a Tiger.
Alan, the leading scorer in the 96-year history of DWU men's basketball, said he watched his older brothers Tom and Chris, who each rank in the top 20 for scoring at Wesleyan. Alan explained that as a child it was his goal to one day be a Tiger.
Tom moved back to Mitchell after college for a elementary school principal position in 1977, giving his kids all the opportunity to grow up around the game in a town that loves its Kernels.
"I think it has trickled down from the beginning," Tom said. "Because of my background, my kids played quite a bit when they were younger. As time has gone on, the kids have had full exposure to it, and I guess in some sense they didn't know anything else."
Tom's boys enjoyed success for the Kernels, with three state titles in the mid-1990s, with all of the titles including at least one Miller.
The state titles won by the Millers include Ryan winning in 1994, Jared in 1994 and 1996, Mike in 1994 (as an eighth-grader), 1996 and 1997, Chelsey and Tara in 2003 and Macy in 2012. Alan won a state title with Stickney in 1981.
"My fondest memory was getting to play basketball with my older brother Ryan and win a state championship with him, and then getting to play with my younger brother Mike and getting to win another one with him," Jared said.
Jared went on to play at Northern State for three years and finished up at Southwest Minnesota State. He now lives in Sioux Falls.
Chelsey (Miller) Dockter, graduated in 2003 and was the final of Tom's children to suit up for the Kernels. She joined her cousin Tara (Miller) Gubbrud to win a state title in 2003 for the Mitchell girls.
Jordan and Jade followed, playing for Class AA runner-up boys' teams at Mitchell.
Macy Miller is the last of this generation of Miller basketball players in Mitchell, and having two older brothers who refused to take it easy on her, the youngest of Alan's children grew up quick as a basketball player.
"I know Jordan and Jade had some battles in the backyard," Tara said. "I think Macy benefited from growing up with two older brothers making her tough."
When Jade Miller is a senior at DWU in 2016, it will have been 49 years since his uncle, Tom first suited up for the Tigers, starting the Miller legacy in Mitchell.
"It's a phenomenal amount of time," Tom said.
For 12 seasons through 1967 to 1985, Tom, Chris and Alan starred for DWU.
Ryan Miller, who recently finished his second season as an assistant coach at Auburn University in Alabama and played his college basketball at Northern State University, started the second generation of Millers in Mitchell, capturing his first of two all-state selections for the Kernels in 1993.
Jared played on championship teams with both of his brothers in 1994 and 1996, and Chelsey graduated in 2003 with Alan's oldest, Tara, after winning a title together.
"It was great to play alongside my cousin and help carry on the Miller name," said Tara, who recently finished her second season as the head coach of the Bon Homme High School girls' team. "I would laugh because a lot of people thought I was Mike's sister because we looked more alike, I guess."
Jordan and Jade played on successful teams for the Kernel boys and graduated in 2008 and 2012, respectively.
Macy, having played on a title team in 2012 and a runner-up in 2013, is looking to close out her family's success with yet another banner.
Though spread out over nearly five decades, the parents and children have been linked throughout that time on the basketball courts in Mitchell.
Munsen coached seven Miller basketball players during his time with the Kernel boys' and girls' programs.
Munsen coached Ryan, Jared and Mike to state titles. He led Jordan and Jade each to state runner-up finishes, and coached Chelsey and Tara before having to give up coaching the girls' program at Mitchell when the season switched from fall to winter in 2002. Munsen coached the girls' team when the it played in the fall. When girls' basketball in South Dakota shifted to the winter with the boys, Munsen turned the team over to Deb Thill, who led the girls to a state title win 2003 with Tara and Chelsey on the squad.
Alan was an assistant to Munsen for some time and praised the job he did teaching the game to all of the Miller children.
Current Kernel girls' coach Wes Morgan, who Alan also praised for his work, has had the privilege to coach the last of the Miller kids, Macy, something Munsen would have liked to have done.
"I told Alan and Shelly that I didn't stay coaching the girls long enough," said Munsen, referring to Macy's parents. "I could have coached the best one of all of them."
The comment elicited a laugh from Macy and her parents, but Munsen jokingly added, "Well, there is the WNBA in a few years."
During the late 1990s, the third of Tom's sons — Mike — was not only carrying on his family's legacy, but bringing something to Mitchell that had never been seen before. Mike was a national college recruit. Fans packed the Corn Palace, rubbing elbows with college coaching legends like Roy Williams and Tubby Smith.
"When Mike was a kid, we knew he was probably going to be the best basketball player out of all of us, because he had height and speed, and he was," Alan said. "We didn't expect it was going to be quite like it was."
Mike scored a Kernel-record 689 points in his senior year. He then went on to play in college for the Florida Gators. Mike was drafted by the NBA's Orlando Magic fifth overall in 2000 and won two NBA titles with the Miami Heat. He has played 13 years in the NBA and is now with the Memphis Grizzlies.
The shadow cast by Mike has left something for the rest of the Millers to look up and aspire to.
While the family members who followed were important pieces of some great Kernel teams, nothing like what Mike did was seen, until the youngest of Alan's kids took to the court.
Macy has stood above the competition in 2013-14 in Class AA. The senior guard was averaging more than 30 points per game heading into the state tournament. The next closest girls player in the South Dakota's Class AA is averaging 17 points per game.
"When I played, I got a lot of people saying, 'That's Mike's cousin,' " Jordan Miller said. "Now people are going to say I'm Macy's brother."
Macy committed to SDSU, opting to stay close to home, when she was a sophomore, but her talent could have easily landed her a position at a larger university, according to Munsen.
"I see a lot of similarities between Macy and Mike," Tom said. "They both had a lot of attention thrown their way and Macy will get a lot more of it this weekend. She seems to handle it pretty well."
Macy said she will throw a few light-hearted jabs Mike's way the next time she talks to him about breaking many of the standards he set.
Alan recalls setting the goal to one day play in the Corn Palace after watching older brothers Tom and Chris play at DWU.
"It was a dream of mine to play at the Corn Palace," Alan said. "After four years at Wesleyan and coaching with Gary Munsen, it would be hard to estimate how many hours I spent on that court."
Macy played her final game in the arena March 6 and said the emotion of not playing at the Palace again hasn't quite set in.
"I grew up around it my whole life," Macy said. "I heard stories about my dad and uncles, watched my cousins, brothers and sister play here, then finally got to put on that Mitchell jersey."
While Macy is still coming to grips with her last days as a Kernel, her father said it is starting to set in.
"I asked my wife (Shelly) before the last game, 'Can you imagine this is going to be the last one we go see there?' " Alan said when the Kernels girls won the district championship March 6.
For now, the Miller spotlight will fade, and after Jade's time is done at DWU, it will be years before the family could bring another star to the Kernels.
"I want to watch my grandkids play here," Alan said. "Tara married Chris Gubbrud, who is 7-foot tall, and Ryan (a coach at Auburn) joked about having first crack at any children."