HAGERSTOWN — Ask Devin Miller why he has been so successful at Hagerstown Community College, and he’ll imply that it’s because he has been a good listener.
Ask HCC basketball coach Barry Brown, and he’ll say it’s because his sophomore forward has been a strong leader.
But in this case, the only opinion that counts is that of the National Junior College Athletic Association, and it says it’s because Miller is a great basketball player.
Miller received his validation this week as he was named to the NJCAA All-America second team, placing his name on a very short list of Hawks to have garnered All-American honors.
Miller’s name is on it, but he is quick to write a list of everyone on the men’s basketball team in the margins.
“Getting this is a nice honor, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my teammates and my coaches,” Miller said. “They are the ones who have pushed me, telling me what I had to do to get it done. I feel like we have more All-Americans here. This has all been a once-in-a-lifetime experience — playing for HCC, coming here to grow up and to become an All-American.”
With the honor, Miller takes his place next to the two 1990s HCC greats who were All-Americans — Dexter Boney (first team) and Bernard Hopkins (second team).
“This is a big thing with Devin,” Brown said. “He is like Dexter because they were both Region (XX) MVPs and he is like Bernard because of the way he plays his game. All three of them won region championships here. That goes a long way in the NJCAA because that shows that they are not only good individuals, but they led our teams to championships.
“Devin led us by being a competitor. I don’t know how many times he has put up a huge effort and has had everything fall on the right side.”
At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Miller glowed as an outside shooter. Even when he was off, he found a way to make an impact for the Hawks to keep them on the winning track.
“Devin’s job was to score, and we gave him a lot of freedom on offense,” Brown said. “He could get hot at any time. No matter how many times he went out there and looked badly and out of sorts, there was always a time where he hit a couple of shots quickly to get us going and make an impact.”
HCC won two consecutive Region XX championships during Miller’s watch. The Potomac High graduate, who has made the All-Maryland JuCo team twice, led the Hawks to a 54-11 record in his career, including 28-5 this season. He was HCC’s top scorer at 16.9 points per game — hitting 69 3-pointers — and also averaged 5.2 rebounds.
“This has been a stepping stone,” Miller said. “I have learned a lot. I was definitely surprised to be second team, but I would have been happy just to be an honorable mention. I think I got these chances because of my teammates.”
Miller’s game underwent a huge transformation this season as he changed from an offensive gunner to a more well-rounded player. He committed to Brown’s plan to play stingy defense and bought into the idea that he had to be an inside guy, instead of one who sneaked down the floor looking for open shots.
“That was a big transformation for him,” Brown said. “If you look at the video on him, there has been some subtle changes but it is all part of his maturation process as a player. The college game is more physical and more mental, and he learned to compete in it and he took great pride in being a leader.
“Devin really committed to the defensive effort. The others said, ‘If he could do it ...’ and stepped it up. That was a big part of getting us going.”
Like Miller, the HCC program transformed itself over the last two years, becoming a team that really embraced defense as the starting point for the offense. The Hawks learned they didn’t need to run and gun to score a lot.
And like Boney and Hopkins before him, Miller might have made himself the prototype player that HCC will try to recruit to keep that image.
“Devin is a second team All-American and had two good years here,” Brown said. “But he helped elevate the program to another level. I really care for Devin Miller. I can see me asking, ‘How do we replace him?’”