Brandon Miller grew up in Tennessee wearing the script A. Now he's an Alabama basketball star as a freshman
The recruitment of Brandon Miller essentially began three decades ago.
Alabama basketball has Bill Oliver, who was an assistant coach under Gene Stallings, to thank indirectly.
More than 30 years ago, Brandon’s father Darrell Miller, was trying to decide where to play college football. Being recruited as a tight end, Darrell was deciding between Georgia, Georgia Tech and Alabama. Then Crimson Tide coach Bill Curry left to coach Kentucky in 1990.
Curry started recruiting Darrell to come to Lexington, too, but his efforts fell flat. The new staff still secured a commitment from Darrell.
“I had built a great relationship with Bill Oliver at that time,” Darrell said.
Fast forward to 2021, and his son made the same college decision, albeit to play basketball. To say it’s going well so far is an understatement. Brandon is the SEC’s leading scorer and has been named the SEC freshman of the week four of eight possible times this season.
Wearing the script A is nothing new for Brandon. He’s been an Alabama fan for years. That wasn’t the main reason he committed to the Crimson Tide, but it didn’t hurt.
“I didn’t talk him into going to the University of Alabama,” Darrell said. “I wanted to give him a choice. But in a way, I kind of instilled it in him when he was born.”
Alabama upbringing in Tennessee
Darrell isn’t exaggerating. He recalls putting Brandon in an Alabama onesie not long after his son arrived in 2002. Then as Brandon grew up, just about every Saturday during the fall, he would walk into the living room and see Alabama football on the TV.
“I took pride in, ‘I’m just going to watch them every Saturday instead of watching anybody else,’” Brandon told The Tuscaloosa News. “It just kept replaying like that. I just became a fan because of that.”
Darrell was only in Tuscaloosa for the 1990 season. His son, Darrell Jr., had recently been born. Darrell Sr. tried playing football while being a young father, but he thought the best decision at that time would be to step away from football and move back to Nashville in 1991.
He brought the Alabama football fandom back with him.
“When Alabama was playing,” Darrell said, “we’re in here and you would think it’s the Super Bowl based on how we’re preparing for it.”
Brandon said his family would be cooking all day. Wings, dips, and all the good game day food for the Miller family, which includes his sister, Britany Miller, and mom, Yolanda Miller.
The Millers also often watched the Third Saturday in October matchup between the Crimson Tide and Vols with Darrell’s best friend, Mose Phillips, the former Tennessee running back. Darrell and Phillips played together at Hillsboro High School.
Brandon had a few Tennessee-fan friends as well as an Oregon Ducks friend. Some LSU, too.
“They never stopped me from being an Alabama fan,” Brandon said. “They tried to convince me to become an Oregon fan because of the uniforms and the colors. I said, ‘Nah I want to watch someone who wins.’”
Nate Oats and Nick Saban
Brandon didn’t go to his first game at Bryant-Denny Stadium until the first of several recruiting visits. On one of those trips, he met Alabama football coach Nick Saban.
They shook hands, then they talked. Brandon asked him some questions. He said he also got to see Saban’s Mercedes.
“I was joking with him about it because he doesn’t have tints in his car,” Brandon said. “’You like people just looking in your car?’ He was like, ‘I don’t mind.’”
Through his visits to campus, Brandon went from someone who grew up a UA fan to an elite athlete seriously considering the school for his basketball future. Brandon, and his family, aimed to keep an open mind in recruiting. They just tried to keep coaches stopping by for home visits from seeing Brandon’s room.
The coaches would have seen the gray walls with a Crimson stripe around the entire room, the Crimson curtains with Alabama logos and the white Alabama trash can. When he was younger, Brandon also had an Alabama comforter and pillow cover.
Despite all of that, Brandon considered all of his options for the next step in his basketball career.
“From the jump, it was never, ‘I want to go here because of my dad or anything,’” Brandon said. “A talk with the coaches really brought me in here. I don’t really know why my dad came here, but I know the reason I came here. The reason I came here was really because Coach Oats took the time out of his life to contact me every day of the week.”
A key relationship with a coach made the difference in his recruitment, just like his dad.
Here’s one more commonality. Darrell redshirted during his lone season in Tuscaloosa, so he had limited opportunities to shine on a big stage. Still, he had his moments in practice. When the tight end made a good catch or play on the practice field, his teammates often chanted two words.
Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men's basketball for The Tuscaloosa News/USA TODAY Network. Reach him via email: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly.