This Reggie Believes That Miller’s Place Is Alongside His Sister
Reggie Miller has girl problems. That can happen when you’re 19, but it has never happened to anyone quite the way it has to Reggie Miller.
Reggie’s problem is his sister.
Now, she’s the best sister a guy ever had. You need a shoulder to cry on, she’s got one ready. Need a lift, she’s there wearing a smile. Need someone to set a pick on the free-throw line of life, Cheryl is your girl.
That’s the problem. Cheryl is always there.
She was there--sort of--when Reggie stood on the foul line the other night at Tucson where he and his basketball buddies from UCLA were playing a little five-on-five against Arizona State. The fans were chanting, “Cheryl! Cheryl! Cheryl!” They thought Reggie might get rattled, or at least offended.
Instead, he got even, which is what Cheryl would have done.
Cheryl, of course, is Cheryl Miller, Reggie’s big sister and best friend. Also, the best woman basketball player, ever. No debate there. The USC junior is to women’s basketball what the skylab is to airplanes.
“I don’t think any woman will ever play basketball better than Cheryl,” Reggie says.
But a lot of guys will, including Reggie. And that’s what gets him hacked off, the suggestion that Cheryl can outplay him. A caption in Sports Illustrated suggested just that. So did the Arizona fans.
Forgive him for taking it personally.
“Cheryl told me not to sweat it,” said Reggie, who last lost to Cheryl one-on-one when he was an eighth grader and she was in the ninth. “She tells me my day is coming.”
And, you know, it is. For the first time in a long time, Reggie Miller may be climbing his way out of what he thought might be a bottomless identity crisis. For the first time in a long time, Reggie Miller is someone other than Cheryl’s little brother.
Reggie loves his sister, but he could do without the tag.
“When I was in the 9th or 10th grade, Cheryl was All-American and she was getting all the pub,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘Why isn’t anyone paying any attention to me?’ I used to wish that I wasn’t Reggie Miller, that I was Reggie Smith or Reggie Jackson. But my time has come.
“I walk into a restaurant in Westwood now and people know it’s Reggie Miller. I used to be always Cheryl’s little brother. Now for the first time, I’m Reggie Miller. I’m up with the Smiths and the Jacksons now.”
Actually, he may have a ways to go there. It’s still the other Reggie selling ReggieVision after all. But, progress. He’s the leading scorer on the UCLA basketball team at 11.5 points a game and figures to get better.
Besides, you don’t want to discourage this kid. His enthusiasm is so genuine, so likable, that you can’t help rooting for this theater arts major who wants to be a movie star someday. Maybe he’s a little cocky, but in such an unaffecting way that your first reaction is to smile.
You can’t shoot a basketball the way he shoots without being a little cocky. He shoots this feathery jump shot that’ll scrape the paint off a ceiling and he shoots it from wherever he gets his hands on the ball.
“I’m always open,” he says, smiling. “As soon as I cross the half-court line, I’m open.”
He says his range is 25 to 30 feet and he says it deadpan. In fact, about a third of his shots are 22 feet or longer.
“My range is from wherever the coaches won’t have a heart attack,” he said.
Sometimes they ask him to scoot up a little bit, but Coach Walt Hazzard figures that there isn’t too much he can say to Miller, who was, before his last game, shooting 57% from the field.
“What can I say to him?” asked Hazzard, who was a 44% shooter in the NBA. “I never shot 57% in my life.”
Arizona went to a diamond-and-one zone to try to stop the sophomore from Riverside. To stop Reggie Miller.
Everyone knew he could shoot, and now he’s even trying to do other things. Miller is 6 feet 7 inches and only 173 pounds and is trying to play forward, where a lot of guys push him around. He didn’t play great defense. And he did hardly any rebounding.
“People were getting on me about my rebounding, so I decided to do something about it,” he said.
He talked to Cheryl about it. He talked to his father, the man who put the basketball court in his backyard in Riverside so Cheryl and Reggie would have a place to play, the man who used to film their pickup games.
After talking to them and after taking down only 15 rebounds in his first eight games, Miller came up with 33 in his next six. He has promised the coaches he will gain 20 pounds over the summer. “Then I’ll be another Michael Jordan,” he said.
It’s coming. It just doesn’t come as fast as it did for Cheryl. Reggie said he is long past being jealous of his sister. He goes to USC to watch her play and just marvels at what she can do.
“The woman is fabulous,” he said. “I watch her come out of the game with 40 points and 25 rebounds and I say, ‘All right, I’ll try to match that.’ Maybe in six games.”
They’re still best friends. They are still one another’s biggest fan. When Cheryl won a gold medal at the Olympics, Reggie cried. There isn’t much more Cheryl can do in basketball after USC, but Reggie has plans to do well at UCLA, play in the NBA and then. . . .
“Go straight to the silver screen,” said Miller, a young man going places. “Cheryl and I have talked about it. We could do a TV show. We’ll call it Miller’s Place.”
Cheryl and Reggie Miller’s place.
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