Oct. 12, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Familiarity is supposed to breed contempt, or so the expression goes.
But the redshirt-juniors, good friends and key components to Tech's inside game also are counting on their familiarity with each other on an every day basis to help breed winning.
"He pushes me every day," said Miller, the 6-11 center from Loganville, Ga. "He's tough to battle in the post. He's real strong and physical -- sometimes more than I like -- but it makes me a better player.
"I get mad sometimes and push him back a little bit," he added, with a laugh.
"We all push each other and make each other better," said Holsey, a 6-9 forward from Sparta. "The more we compete the better we make each other."
Miller and Holsey have come a long way since entering Tech together in 2009, redshirting their freshman years, getting their feet wet two years ago, then making big strides last season.
Holsey proved he was all the way back from a torn right ACL he suffered in August 2009, starting all 31 games at the 4 last season. He averaged 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, while leading the team in field goal percentage (.590, .518 in ACC play).
Miller, the poster boy for durability, started all 31 games last season, extending his current team-high streak to 62 straight games -- he hasn't missed a game in his first two seasons. He averaged 8.1 points with 6.5 rebounds, both career-bests but made his biggest impact as a shot-blocker. He swatted away at least one shot in 29 games, had a streak of 23 straight games with a block (over two seasons)and averaged 2.42 shots per game. Only North Carolina's John Henson had more (2.9 bpg).
Miller and Holsey are 1-2 among Tech's returning rebounders and 2-3 among returning scorers (point guard Mfon Udofia is first). Head coach Brian Gregory believes the duo, as well as 6-8 sophomore forward Julian Royal and 6-8 freshman Robert Carter can play big roles in the offense this year.
"I love bigs that are skilled enough to shoot," Gregory said. "In this day and age, we primarily play with one post player and four guys on the perimeter, so you need your bigs to be able to knock down shots and stretch the defense. Kam has improved from 15 feet, and I think Daniel is a very good perimeter shooter as well. The one thing I like about all four of those guys -- and the hope is that they can give you both -- that each can finish around the rim, maybe a little differently, but can also stretch the defense out. That versatility is so important among your bigger players."
Miller and Holsey showed their ability to score the ball at the end of last season. Holsey averaged 12.5 points over the season's final eight games and led the Yellow Jackets in scoring eight times over the final 16. Miller also found the range down the stretch, scoring in double-digits in eight of Tech's final 10 games.
They showed just how devastating they could be when in sync, last Dec. 7, combining for 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting in Tech's 68-56 rout of Georgia in Athens.
Continuing that chemistry is a goal for '12-13.
"We passed a lot between each other last year," said Miller. "We had some plays where he could have taken the shot but he passed to me and the other way around. We have a good friendship, and it shows on the court. We just keep getting better."
Getting better is a theme for this year's Yellow Jackets, who began official practices Friday afternoon with the confidence of knowing they have a handle on Gregory's offense. That's something they didn't have last year.
"The transition, trying to figure out the new offense, it wasn't tough, but it took a little while," Miller said. "Towards the end of the season we started getting it. Everybody was buying into the system. This year we've had all that time to work with coaches over the summer and spend a little time doing it so far in the fall. Now we don't have to spend as much time doing it. Once we start [practice] we can start on other things."
"I'm real excited to get going," said Holsey. "We showed a lot of improvement at the end of the season last year as a team and we bought into it this summer. We worked hard and we're excited to see how good we can be this year."