His story is heartrending, uplifting, and one that gives rise to optimism in succeeding generations. All that, and Covington’s Trevor Miller is a pretty good basketball player, too.
Covington – The doorbell rang this past June on a hot, cloudless day.
“Hey, I’m going to cut the hay today if that’s alright with you,” said Trevor Miller, failing to suppress an impish grin. “I wanted to make sure I didn’t drive the tractor over something you don’t want driven on. OK to drive through the yard?”
I smiled to myself as he stepped into the cab of his tractor, maybe the happiest teenager I’ve ever seen on a John Deere. He’s taken care of my hay field behind the house for several years.
“You really like cutting hay, don’t you,” I asked.
“Almost better than anything,” he answered, his smile broadening. “I like any kind of hard work.”
Trevor Miller is the ubiquitous, ever-present kid next door that nearly everyone in a given neighborhood can claim. Dennis the Menace, Eddie Haskell, Richie Cunningham – they come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. The good ones stand out, and admittedly I’m partial…because Trevor Miller would just about do anything in the world for you if he knew you needed a hand.
He lives outside of Covington on the family farm and on most days if you want him you have to seek him in the field on a tractor or in a combine. Ask him what he likes to do best and he’ll tell you…work. Ask him what he likes to do second best and he’ll tell you…help people.
But work and a charitable nature are just the beginning of Trevor Miller’s story because the part you might not recognize by looking at him is that he’s a pretty good Division IV forward for the Covington Buccaneers in the Cross County Conference. At 6’5” and 200 pounds he’s big enough, athletic enough, and skilled enough to present a tough matchup for a lot of would-be opponents.
He averaged just at 14 points a game last season, his junior year, though he doesn’t think of himself as a great basketball player, and refuses to talk about himself as such…and punctuated that with a 29-point highlight in a losing effort to Coldwater. His coach, Matt Pond, gives him nothing but high marks.
“He’s such a great kid that you enjoy being around him,” says Pond. “The thing about him is he tries so hard to please. He learns quickly. You only have to tell him something once. And he genuinely cares about his friends and teammates.
“He has a combination of skills as a basketball player. He’s a tough matchup because he can step outside and shoot with a little range. He can go to the rim and he’s working hard to improve his inside game. He’s easy to coach and he’s always trying to get better.”
“I like hard work,” Miller said recently, explaining why back-breaking jobs like baling hay appeal to him. “There’s a feeling of accomplishment that comes with working hard that relates to anything good you can accomplish in life. Hard work,” he added with a pause, “is always worth the effort.”
His love of farming is generational, as is his love of basketball. Both his father and grandfather played the game.
His earliest recollection of playing is jumping off his bed shooting a nerf basketball at a hoop hanging on the door in his room. Organized ball began for him in the 5th grade and he admits with a laugh, “I wasn’t very good back then.”
But by the seventh and eighth grade that began to change. To reward his commitment to playing, his dad Mark built a new utility barn at home, complete with a full basketball court with hoops at both ends. Trevor Miller could work as hard as he wanted, as long as he wanted, and any time he wanted. Improvement followed.
“I began to develop a shot by the eighth grade,” he says. “I still wasn’t very good, but I didn’t play because I was good. I played because I just liked basketball.
By ninth grade the growth spurt was unmistakable and he labored on the freshman team. In his words, “…not as good as my teammates, but I had fun just being there working to get better.” Hardship and disappointment didn’t bother him. Lack of playing time was no tragedy. He’d already seen real tragedy, family tragedy, and had persevered with a life-changing perspective.
In July of 2007 his older brother, Austin, was killed in an ATV accident, a stunning reality for one as trusting and impressionable as Trevor.
“It was the worst day of my life,” he remembers now. “The worst thing that’s ever happened to me. But now I look back and I know that everything happens for a reason. I know that every day you need to live to appreciate the little things in life. You have to appreciate the plan.
“My dad and grandpa have always told me that you have to work hard for whatever you want. They taught me about work ethic and patience for the plan.”
By his junior season last year he’d moved up to varsity.
“I didn’t start, but that was OK. I just had fun playing with the team,” he shares, modest to a fault. “You can’t do very well by yourself in basketball, you have to be a team and the team is your family.”
Likely as a result of his brother’s tragedy, the family aspect of basketball has been his greatest motivation. Please your teammates and coach…rely on your family!
And as the season progressed, so too did Miller’s game, culminating with his big night against Coldwater.
“I don’t like to talk about that game because we lost,” Pond deadpans. “But Trevor really played well. They were without their 6’9” guy and Trevor was a tough matchup. He knocked down some perimeter jump shots and got some easy ones inside and off the baseline. He did a little bit of everything.”
The combination of his talents.
Now, just days before the opening of practice for his senior year, his anticipation for work and reward has never been higher. Having grown into his height, his skills and his maturity portend him contributing more than a just points from the forward or post position.
“I know he’ll work hard to be a leader for us,” says his coach.
And you can hear that when Trevor talks about his senior year, his senior season, and even his future course of study in college…construction management. He’s eager to follow in the family tradition.
“We’ve all waited to get back together for our senior year,” he says with a nod, his game having matured further through summer basketball leagues and camps. “We want to improve on the record we had last year (9-13 overall, 6-6 in the Cross County Conference).
“We’re going to be a better team this year, but you can’t sacrifice the value of being a team just to win a game. It’s not about one person, and it won’t be. We all want to share the experience of being good. That’s the way we play Covington basketball. You share the work and share the reward.”
A couple of weeks ago the doorbell rang again, late in the afternoon…almost evening. It was Trevor.
“Hey, it’s kinda’ late but I thought I’d mow the hay for the last time. Hope you don’t mind, but I’ve been mowing all day and thought I could get yours done before I quit for the day. That OK?”
Would I mind if you did one more job…for me?
Really. What do you say to a kid next door like that? The forward next door.
God give us more, eh?