You are looking live at a MySpace photo (!) of Le’Bryan Nash and Keaton Miles. They were very successful teammates at Lincoln High in Dallas. They’ve been … unconvincing in college, though.
Nash’s case is different, to be fair. He was the Big 12 Conference’s freshman of the year last year, but so high was the hype that it just wasn’t and still isn’t good enough.
He’s wonderfully talented, but similarly frustrating because his flashes come and go. He’s essentially the same player as a sophomore that he was as a freshman, though that season was cut short by a hand injury.
Nevertheless, he admits he wasn’t what he should and could have been last season, when many expected him to star just one season in Stillwater and then go to the NBA.
“It was really hard,” he told me. “The Big 12 is a physical league and I wasn’t ready for it.”
The thought now, though, is that he’s coming around at the right time for the NCAA Tournament-bound Cowboys.
“I know I’m a matchup problem, very versatile, a guard who can post up,” Nash told reporters after the game. “I look at a lot of film of LeBron [James] and a lot of guys in the NBA that post up.
“I can post up big guys as well as small guys. I think that’s the best part of my game, posting up, and I try to use that to my advantage.”
The question for much of the season is where that part of Nash’s game has been.
In the six games before the Oklahoma game, Nash shot just 34 percent and averaged 9.7 points a game, including two points against West Virginia and six points against Texas Tech.
“You don’t want him near the basket, that’s the No. 1 thing and you want to give him the chance to shoot 3s and see if he can make them,” Texas Tech coach Chris Walker said earlier this season.
Nash had one of those games last month against WVU that laves his fans wanting so much more. He was 0-for-4 and finished with two points and five rebounds in 25 minutes — and it’s not like the Mountaineers had someone who could check him.
That same day, though, Miles had one of his better games this season, the type that mystifies fans who see the lanky, chiseled forward and wonder why it isn’t always hat that way.
He only had two points, four rebounds, an assist and a block, but he was right in the middle of everything when WVU was surging to a 13-point lead and, I am not embellishing, that crowd could not stand one of the most likable kids I’ve come across here.
Yet Miles has been as hit-or-miss as Nash. The expected level of production is not the same and the frustrations, as a result, are very different. But Miles is also basically the same as he was last season, though he’s not playing near as much, and he’s been mostly a non-factor this season. That perplexes Nash.
“His work ethic is amazing,” Nash said. “He works hard every day and he’s a guy whose athletic and jumping ability is amazing. He’s a guy who’s going to do whatever it takes to win. He’s a winner. He comes from a very good program with me and he did all the small things to help our team to win.”
Now that’s interesting. Miles isn’t a scorer. He’s not a creator. Most of his scores have come off of other things, be it when teammates drive the ball or miss a shot, be it in transition or at the free-throw line.
He scored 11 points against Oklahoma the first time the two teams met and 10 against Oakland, but I really feel like that first OSU game was his best this season. It was replete with small things — WVU was plus-seven with him in the game in the first half and he barely played when it mattered in the second half. When he was off the floor, WVU was outscored by 19 points.
It might be that he’s not yet used to the “small things” role, but he had another at least encouraging outing Monday against Kansas State. He made a 3 for the first time since that Oakland game in late-December and finished with six points, two rebounds and a steal when the Mountaineers were playing hard and almost playing well.
If you believe, as many others do, that the sophomore class is underachieving and has thus been problematic, Miles is a quality explanation. He’s gone from a starter at the beginning of this season to a guy who didn’t get in during a 20-point road loss all the way to receiving praise for making a 3 and scoring six points in another blowout.
Safe to say, with other forwards coming in next season, time is ticking if you truly expect more out of him.
“I expect a guy who’s just going to work hard and keep going up,” Nash said. “I expect big things out of Keaton because of his work is too good. It’s amazing. Him not being successful, it’s a matter of time before he’s one of the top players in the Big 12. It might not be this year, it might be next year, it might be his senior year. No one knows. But Keaton is going to break out and be a great player.”
Is today the day?