There have been many great stories that Tennessee athletes have given the public as to what enticed them to become a Volunteer, and there will continue to be great stories in the years to come.
It is unlikely, however, that another story will ever have the same weight as senior forward Dwight Miller’s.
As a child growing up in Nassau, Bahamas, Miller did not play basketball until his teenage years and did not play organized basketball until his freshman year in the U.S. at the age of 14.
“I came over here to the states (on) Dec. 31, 2004, so that’s when I started playing basketball in America,” Miller said. “That’s when I really got a real introduction to it.”
After four years at St. Pius X High School in Houston, Miller went from being a player who had never really played the game before to one of the most highly touted recruits in the country.
Ranked as the No. 65 recruit in the nation, Miller chose to sign with the Pittsburgh Panthers where he would have to deal with the struggle of being redshirted his freshman year.
“It was tough,” Miller said. “Especially since I worked so hard to get from not even playing basketball, not even having any skills, I couldn’t dribble, I couldn’t shoot or anything like that until my freshman year, and to end up being 65th and end up getting a bunch of awards and then going to Pitt and having to redshirt. It was tough at first. It was something that I really didn’t want to do at first because I felt I had so much to prove.”
But for Miller, the struggles did not end there.
His redshirt freshman year at Pitt did not fare any better for the young forward as he barely saw the court, averaging 5.3 minutes a game. With a logjam of potential NBA players on the roster consisting of Sam Young and DeJuan Blair in front of him and a few highly ranked recruits on the way, Miller decided to leave Pitt and transfer to Midland College.
“I realized before I left Pittsburgh that the thing that I really needed to do was play, so I went to junior college to go back and play and find that love and that hunger that I was missing,” Miller said. “I had a lot of offers but ultimately what it came down to was doing whatever made me happy, so I did.”
The 6-foot-8 forward had an impressive sophomore year at Midland, averaging 8.2 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting around 61 percent, all while leading his team to the NJCAA National Championship.
“We had a lot of success and I learned a lot from Midland. I think the biggest thing I learned was to stay hungry,” Miller said.
After such a great season, Miller found himself rated as the No. 10 JUCO player in the country, and decided that he would play the rest of his collegiate career at UT.
“I really tried to take my time instead of rushing into a school or going somewhere, but coming to Tennessee just felt right to me,” Miller said. “I felt like I had something to prove, especially on a big D-I stage.”
In his junior year, Miller played an important role on the Volunteers' team with big games against teams like Ole Miss (10 points, seven rebounds) and then-No. 8 Memphis (eight points and four rebounds).
“The amount of success I had was nowhere close to the amount of hard work I put in,” Miller said. “Especially last year, because I wanted to play.”
Just as soon as it seemed like things were on the rise for the Tennessee forward, bad luck struck as he suffered a knee injury that would sideline him for the entire 2012-13 season.
“A part of me is happy that I got to still be here at Tennessee, but most of me ... just wants to be out there on the floor with my teammates,” Miller said. “I can’t even put it into words how tough it is, but I always try to keep a smile on my face, never let people see me down and I hope people don’t mistake that for me being satisfied because that’s not what it is. It’s just really tough, but things happen for a reason and you have to make the best out of whatever you are given so right now that is what I’m trying to do.”
One of the toughest moments for Miller in his career was Saturday on Senior Night, where he said he was happy to go out on a win with his teammates, but it was difficult to not be out there playing.
“It was tough,” Miller said. “It was just one of those moments of me trying to be strong but it really hit me like a brick, especially in an atmosphere like that, you just want to play in front of all those fans, it’s the last game of the year and it’s just not the way you imagined you’d be going out.
“I was glad that I got to be with Tennessee students and my teammates, cheering them on and I’m even more excited that we got the victory, that’s really the only thing that matters so I was happy that I at least got to go out on a win.”
While Dwight never stepped foot on the court this year, his impact on the team as a senior leader cannot be underestimated.
“Dwight is just a big leader for us,” guard Trae Golden said. “He always knows the right things to say and I think his opinion is very valued.”
With his time here coming to a close (Miller cannot be given a medical redshirt because the Vols have no more scholarships), Miller hopes that the fans remember that he was a competitor.
“The biggest thing is just winning basketball games and that’s something that I love to do,” Miller said. “I just hope people saw that I was a competitor while I was here.”