Mitchell native Mike Miller's former teammates weigh in on playoff run, share high school memoriesEvery day, it was the same after-school schedule for Dexter Noess. On their way out of the Mitchell High School doors, he and his friend would drop by the secretary’s desk for some added homework.
By: Travis Mester, The Daily Republic
By TRAVIS MESTER
The Daily Republic
Every day, it was the same after-school schedule for Dexter Noess.
On their way out of the Mitchell High School doors, he and his friend would drop by the secretary’s desk for some added homework.
His friend, Mike Miller, was being recruited by colleges across the country to play basketball. Noess served as a helping hand to carry some of the written requests for the sharpshooter’s services.
“My junior and senior years, as a standard routine, we’d stop by the school office and pick up a stack of 15 to 30 letters to him,” Noess told The Daily Republic in a phone interview Friday afternoon.
The recruiting process ultimately landed Miller, a Mitchell native, at the University of Florida, where he played from 1998-2000.
Noess, who now works as a project manager with Wells Fargo in Minneapolis, said he remembers playing behind Miller when the two were in Mitchell Kernels’ uniforms in the late 1990s. Miller led the Kernels to back-to-back state titles in 1996 and ’97.
“He just played a little better than I did,” joked Noess, who still is close friends with Miller and had the 31-year-old as one of the groomsman in his wedding last August in St. Cloud, Minn.
Noess, along with the rest of Miller’s former teammates and coaches, now has the opportunity to watch one of the most storied athletes in Mitchell history play in the NBA Finals. Miller and the Miami Heat split the first two games of the championship series with the Dallas Mavericks in Miami. Game 3 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday in Dallas.
“I’m completely sequestered and uninterrupted when these games are going on,” Noess said.
This season is the first time in Miller’s decade-long professional career that he has made it out of the first round of the playoffs.
“It really brings everything to the next level,” Noess said. “You watch him play in NBA games during the regular season, and it’s great. But now, you watch him play with, and against, future Hall of Fame players … and he’s playing and contributing.
“For myself and Ernie (Kuyper), we’ve been as close with him as anybody, we’re just proud and happy for him.”
“He got the message”
Robin Ackman remembers it well.
He was coaching his son, Jason, and his teammates in a Tri-State basketball tournament in Sioux Falls. Miller, a fifth-grader at the time, was one of Jason’s running mates that weekend two decades ago.
Miller was not giving 100 percent that day, Robin Ackman recalled.
“I’m probably the only coach that’s ever benched him,” Robin Ackman joked in a phone interview with The Daily Republic earlier this week. “It looks like he got the message.
“He owes me about $10 million.”
When reminded of the tournament — and his benching — earlier this week, Miller said he had not forgotten.
“I still remember that,” he said.
Jason Ackman was a year ahead of Miller in school, but said the two played together from the time they were fourth- and fifth-graders. Jason now works for Direct TV in Castle Rock, Colo., which is about 30 minutes south of Denver.
“I think we all knew he was going to go to the NBA,” Jason Ackman said. “But it’s cool now to see it all come to fruition and have him playing with these world-class guys like LeBron (James) and Dwyane Wade.”
Jason Ackman said he has watched Miller over the past decade, but this playoff run has been the most excited he has been to turn on the television.
“I get the NBA Ticket from working with Direct TV and I’ve always been watching when he’s playing … and now that he’s in the finals, I’ll be watching for sure.
“Isn’t everyone watching it there in Mitchell?”
“We always knew they were there”
When Division I college coaches were salivating over the former Mitchell star, his teammates took notice.
Tom Cogley played on Miller’s teams for two years in high school.
“I remember my sophomore year, a lot of different coaches being around,” said Cogley, who now is an attorney in Aberdeen. “Tubby Smith, the Kansas coaches, Florida, obviously … I don’t think it was ever a secret that Mike was a special player and he was operating at a higher level than anyone else in South Dakota at that time.”
Jason Ackman said the coaches normally did a pretty good job of “hiding” at the Corn Palace during games, or when they made the trip to Mitchell in the summertime.
“I remember seeing Rick Majarus, he was the Utah coach back then,” Jason Ackman said. “They were kind of hidden in the Corn Palace, but we always knew they were there.”
Noess recalled Tennessee as the first “major school” to start recruiting Miller. The big-time recruiting buzz began when Miller was a freshman, Noess said.
“The decision to go to Florida … that was something he spoke to his family about,” Noess said. “That was something that was best for his situation and his family at the time.”
Miller’s list of career accomplishments can not be overstated.
Two state titles. Countless school records. A recruiting buzz that had never been seen in the community before — or since — his playing days. An appearance in the NCAA National Championship Game. NBA’s Rookie of the Year. NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.
NBA champion likely would move to the front of the line.
But none of those things are what Noess thinks of when recalling high school memories with Miller.
“The times we weren’t in-season, when it was the summer and it was 11 o’clock at night and Mike was in the high school gym continuing to practice … me and Ernie would be up there rebounding for him … that’s what I remember most,” Noess said.
Those late-night jumpers at MHS 15 years ago have gone a long way.
Here is a look at Miller and the Heat’s upcoming NBA Finals schedule with television coverage in parentheses:
Game 3: Miami at Dallas, 7 p.m. Sunday (ABC)
Game 4: Miami at Dallas, 8 p.m. Tuesday (ABC)
Game 5: Miami at Dallas, 8 p.m. Thursday (ABC)
*Game 6: Dallas at Miami, 7 p.m. June 12 (ABC)
*Game 7: Dallas at Miami, 8 p.m. June 14 (ABC)