• “Nate was a great athlete, a great basketball player, but an even better human being.”
• “Losing Nate is like losing Kobe to me. Someone who inspired my love for the game.”
• “Nate was doing something special, not just in Springfield but in the area.”
• “Springfield just lost a good guy and a LEGEND.”
Nate was only “Junie”, as in Junior, for his mother. She and a few of her friends were the only ones who called him that. Nate’s grandfather, also Nate Miller, was a standout athlete at Springfield High School in the 1950s. His father Nate Miller Sr. played for South High School, graduating in 1977.
Nate Miller Jr., born August 12, 1987 in Springfield, came and took the Miller name to new heights with his basketball career, first in high school and college and then overseas in Spain, Israel, Mexico, Argentina and South Korea. .
For the past few years, Miller has made his mark as a middle-level basketball and baseball coach for the Springfield City School District. He also ran his own program, Millerz Elite Basketball. He had recently been named head coach of the junior team at Springfield. He got the job just months after being inducted into the Springfield High School Hall of Fame in January.
Larry Ham, who coached Miller throughout his high school career, remembers thinking that Miller would one day coach when Miller returned to high school after graduating to work with younger kids. Ham saw Miller this spring at his grandson’s eighth grade graduation and congratulated him on his recent success.
“He said to me, ‘Thank you, coach; I’m just trying to be a mini you,’ or something like that,” Ham said. “He said, ‘They just hired me as a JV coach in high school. I said, ‘Congratulations on that.’ He was excited about it. I said, ‘Are you trying to position yourself?’ He said, “Yes, I am.”
It would have been a natural progression for Miller to one day take over as head coach of his alma mater. Instead, there is grief in his hometown.
Chris Wallace, another Southern track star who is now the offensive coordinator for the Springfield football team, shared a photo on Facebook of a group of eighth and ninth graders, some of whom allegedly played for Miller next season, who got together for an open gym last weekend. Wallace wanted to cancel the rally, he wrote, but asked the children if they wanted to play.
“This controlled open gym turned into a comfort zone for the children, and men from the community came forward to provide support to these children to deal with their confusion and heartache,” said writes Wallace. “Tears have been shed before and words have been shared between teammates and friends. Afterwards, they all decided to show Coach Nate their respect by also going after him for two hours. As long as they walk this earth doing their best, Nate, I will do my best to continue what you wanted for our children and our community and that is to ensure that each of our children has the opportunity to succeed . Rest, young man.
Wallace was a star quarterback for South in the 1990s, and Miller’s success in basketball after high school makes it easy to forget what he did on the football field. He was a first-team All-Ohio selection as a senior in 2004. He was honored as a defensive back but also scored 15 touchdowns on offense.
“He’s the kind of kid who can be successful in any position,” then-coach Tony Broering said in 2004. “Nathan has made great strides this year.”
Miller also grew up playing baseball and excelled at that sport as well.
“He was the home run king,” Janine said. “He had so many home run balls that he recovered.”
Miller dropped out of baseball in seventh grade to focus on football and basketball. There was no doubt that he felt most comfortable on the basketball court. Janine has traveled the country – Las Vegas, Walt Disney World, etc. — watching him play AAU basketball. Miller could have played college football if he wanted to, but there was no doubt which path he would choose.
“I love basketball,” Miller told the News-Sun in 2004. “I want to play basketball until I can’t anymore.”
Miller had plenty of time to devote to sports. His mother said he was spoiled by his five siblings, all sisters.
“Everyone had chores,” Janine said, “and her sisters always covered for it. Once in a while he did them, but he said, ‘I have practice.’ »
Miller helped lead South to a 23-3 record and a Division I regional final as a junior in 2004, when he averaged 17.5 points and 12.0 rebounds in his junior season . The Wildcats also featured Isaiah Carson and James Cooper, who were seniors that season.
“It was just a good group,” Ham said, “and they blended well. They were really just awesome.
Ham thought Miller would go to Bowling Green just outside the South, but Miller fell in love with UNC Wilmington while visiting and spent his first season of college basketball there. He appeared in just nine games, however. He wasn’t happy this far from home and was transferred to Bowling Green midway through the season.
“All of my (UNCW) teammates were really cool, and the coaches weren’t bad either,” Miller told the News-Sun in 2006, “but I felt like I had to do what was best for me.”
Miller played three seasons at Bowling Green and ranks 37th in school history with 1,133 points. He was also a top scorer at the senior level and averaged 22.4 career points per game in the 2011-12 season in Israel. As recently as 2019, he averaged 9.5 points per game in 31 games in Seoul, South Korea.
After his playing career ended, Miller spent more time on others. He wanted to help troubled children, said Janine, who is a social worker herself. He also worked as a substitute teacher at Roosevelt Middle School, where he coached the basketball team to a 13-1 record last season.
Of course, his main focus was on his sons, both of whom were born in Israel when he played there.
“He often told everyone that everything he did was for his boys,” Janine wrote in her son’s obituary. “Nate was also a surrogate for many other youngsters wherever he went.”