My Motlow Story: Dequon Miller
All-American Point Guard Feels at Home at Motlow State
by Shane Levan, Staff Writer
Two years ago Dequon Miller had a decision to make. Was he going to be just another former high school basketball player who didn't live up to his potential, or was he going to use his talent on the court to get an education and create opportunities for his future?
Miller chose option two, and Motlow College and its basketball family are glad he did.
When Matt Sligh was named head men's basketball coach at Motlow College in July 2013, he inherited a program that had won the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association championship the previous season. With no players returning from that championship team, his first order of business was to build a roster.
His first recruit was Miller, a point guard who had averaged 28 points and eight assists per game in prep school. Sligh liked what he saw in Miller and felt that he could build a team around the talented freshman. Miller exceeded expectations by being named an All-American, and despite offers from multiple major-college programs will return to play his sophomore season at Motlow.
"Next year I have big expectations coming in as a sophomore," said Miller. "I want to lead the team to a conference championship after coming up short this year. Hopefully, next year I can make first team All-American and lead my team to a national JUCO championship."
His head coach's expectations are equally as high.
"This past NCAA tournament reminds us all how important guard play is in a team's success," said Sligh. "Most importantly, our core group of players, led by Dequon, have been hardened through this difficult but successful first season and are locked in on making the 2014-2015 season a memorable one."
For Coach Sligh, Miller's return came as a surprise. While Miller was considering other options, his potential transition to Division 1 college basketball did not happen. Although some might consider a return to Motlow as a disappointment for Miller, both he and Sligh view it as an opportunity.
"We both thought this would be his only year with us but the NCAA has not cleared him for eligibility at this time," said Sligh. "There are several processes that a player must do in order to be cleared, and unfortunately those have not gone as smoothly as we all hoped. That being said, Dequon has handled the situation well and is looking forward to his sophomore season at Motlow."
While Miller's goal is to ultimately play basketball for a four-year college, he recognizes the benefits in returning to Motlow; both for his game on the court and his personal goals as a student-athlete.
"I am coming back to Motlow to get my two-year degree and better myself off the court as a young man. I still have a lot of growing up to do," said Miller.
Miller's focus on personal maturation likely extends from his transition from high school to college, as his road to Motlow was a bumpy one. Miller previously played at Shooting 4 Greatness Academy in Raleigh, N.C., after graduating from Capital High School in Charleston, W.Va. He believes his past struggles have helped him attain success at Motlow.
"It's really a blessing because I came a long way," he continued. "I could have given up my senior year of high school when I got into some trouble, the downfall of being immature. I kept pushing and praying and I kept God first. I really worked on my game and kept pushing toward my dreams."
Miller was originally committed to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, but was wary of its distance from his hometown. He finally decided to play basketball for Motlow, because he felt as if Motlow was 'home away from home'.
"I chose Motlow because Coach Sligh reached out to me and really made me feel comfortable and made me feel like I was going to be at home again," added Miller. "I know I'm eight or nine hours away from the house, but I haven't gotten homesick yet and I'm a mama's boy.
"Coach Sligh really changed my life this last year. He brought me in and made me feel like I'm at home. He treats all of us like we're his own sons, making sure we're doing the right things academically and athletically."
As a player and a person, Miller has been a significant part of the Bucks' transition to Coach Sligh as head coach. Sligh trusts that Miller will continue to play a pivotal role in Motlow's basketball success.
"Throughout the past year, Dequon has grown as a person and a player," continued Sligh. "He was the first guy to put trust in our program, so it's great to see how he personally benefitted from an outstanding season. We expect a lot from our guards, and he has excelled in our system.
"He is focused and motivated to continue to improve, which is a testament to his work ethic," added Sligh. "There is obvious excitement surrounding his recruitment by major college programs, so it should be a fun process to watch play out next year. The attention he's receiving is merited as he will be an impact player at the next level."
As Motlow's point guard this past season, Miller led the Bucks offensively averaging 20.9 points and seven assists per game. Those numbers placed him among the top scorers and passers in the nation. He also led the team in free-throw shooting, averaging 82.9 percent at the charity stripe.
Miller shot a blistering 42.3 percent from behind the three-point line while making 85 three pointers, which is third most in a single season in Motlow men's basketball history. Defensively, Miller led the team with 1.9 steals per game.
With Coach Sligh and his point guard returning to lead the Bucks next season, along with a significant number of contributing players from last year's 14-14 squad, Motlow is expected to be a contender once again for the TCCAA title and a berth in the national championship tournament.