Gift of fatherhood gives Hawks' Miller new goals

December 23, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI |
  • Hagerstown Community College's Devin Miller is juggling basketball, academics and fatherhood this season. Miller became a father in November with the birth of his daughter, Zyann.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — ’Twas the week of Thanksgiving and all through his room, Devin Miller wasn’t stirring before everything suddenly went boom.

Nov. 21 felt like an ordinary day to the Hagerstown Community College sophomore as he began to prepare for the Hawks’ game against Rockville with some rap. He kicked back and settled his brain with a mid-season nap.

He snoozed with everything well in hand, but when Miller awoke, it was to pictures of Zyann.

All poetry aside, Miller’s life changed significantly by the end of that short snooze.

He dozed off as one of the experienced leaders — sort of a father figure — for HCC’s men’s basketball team.

He awoke as a father.

As Miller prepared for the game, 6-pound, 4-ounce Zyann Miller was being delivered by his girlfriend Lexus Jenkins in Oxon Hills, Md. It was Miller’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment and the first few seconds of an early start to his first “Twelve Days of Christmas” as a father.

He had his first partridge in the pear tree.

“I wanted to play,” Miller said. “I heard that morning that (Lexus) was having contractions, but everyone said I had time to play the game and I was going to go down after. I was focused on playing. I took a nap, and when I woke up, I got pictures of the baby.

“As soon as I had seen those pictures, my entire mindset changed. My heart just dropped. She was actually here. Words can’t explain how I felt. It was a relief.”

Needless to say, from that moment on, things began to change for Miller. The news knocked Miller off his normal pregame routine because his mind raced. He didn’t have one of his best games during HCC’s 107-97 win over Rockville.

Off the floor, it was a different story. Miller continues to find his game. Zyann’s birth is another step to becoming the man he wants to be, although it all happened a little sooner than he had imagined.

“When I found out (that he was to become a father), I was shocked,” said the 6-foot-6 Miller. “I looked forward to having kids later on, but this made me work harder. This isn’t bad, but I have to adapt. I have to work harder in school and everything else because I want to provide for my daughter.”

It is the start of a huge balancing act for Miller. He is a basketball-playing dad who needs to complete his schooling while joining in HCC’s chase for a championship. It is all tempered by trying to be a constant in Zyann’s life, which might affect some options when transferring to a four-year school to continue to play while working for a degree in accounting.

“I look to better myself every day,” Miller said. “I try to contribute to the team. I want to improve myself every day so we can win a title and a championship.

“School-wise, I would like to stay close enough where I can commute so I can get back and forth for emergencies and to see her. A lot of players don’t have the chance to get home and see family, but I want to benefit and stay in my child’s life.”

In essence, Miller swallowed another huge dose of maturity, which is the main vitamin he admits he needed to become a man and a father.

Miller spent his first three years of high school between public and private schools. As a freshman in public school, he admits he didn’t care about grades or anything else and was unable to play. As a sophomore and junior at a private school, he only lasted half of the season.

He went back to Potomac as a senior and played for Torrence Oxendine, who Miller credits for showing him how to become a better player while making education his first priority.

“I have done a lot of maturing since I got (to HCC),” Miller said. “It was a blessing to come here because HCC wasn’t recruiting me. I had some Division I offers, but I knew I didn’t have the grades and I knew I wasn’t mature enough to make it.”

Players have come to HCC with plans of using the school as a stepping stone to playing professionally somewhere. Miller has those dreams tucked in the back of his head, but his more mature side sticks to a more realistic approach.

“It’s not about the basketball. … It is a privilege to play,” Miller said. “I’m looking for an education. Basketball pays for me to get the education. It is a privilege because it shows me that I have more opportunity to do more for myself and my significant other.

“I don’t want to let this slip through my hands. I don’t want to be remembered for just being an HCC basketball player. I want to be remembered as an HCC basketball player who went on to do things.”

Zyann’s birth near Christmas has just enhanced Miller’s focus. Now his dreams are becoming reality and he sees reality in his dreams.

“It will be something to be able to look back at all this,” Miller said. “You need an education to get what you want. (Zyann’s birth) doesn’t affect me either way. It’s not stopping me from going on in school and it allows (Lexus) to continue her education. We are both young enough to get it done.”

The only problem that concerns Devin Miller right now is what to get his new daughter on this first night before Christmas.

“I’m not sure what to get,” Miller said, looking to the side while thinking about the one-month-old child. “I just want to get her something to open on her first Christmas to make it special.”

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