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UNC Basketball: Tar Heels add walk-on big man Walker Miller

The brother of former Tar Heel Wes Miller will join the 2017-18 team.

Marquette v North Carolina Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

Before Walker Miller decided to walk on at UNC, he had committed to Dartmouth College. For most everyone, a starting spot on an Ivy League team would be a no-brainer. But Walker Miller turned them down, because Miller, like you and I, has blood that runs not red but Carolina blue.

Well over a decade ago now (sheesh, where has the time gone?) Wes Miller—Walker’s older brother—transferred from James Madison University to walk-on at UNC. You might know the story—after UNC won the championship, 2006 was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but Wes Miller and co. stepped up and the Heels ended up having a good year. Miller was a lockdown defender and shot 44% from behind the arc.

That feels like a lifetime ago. Still, Walker Miller hasn’t even started classes yet and it’s easy to see the similarities in their stories and just how deeply engrained Carolina basketball is in the Miller family. Like Wes, Walker shunned away an opportunity elsewhere to join UNC as a walk-on.

But Walker isn’t his brother. He’s not a scrappy point guard with range; he’s a lanky big man. When you’re 6’10”, there’s always going to be chances to improve and show your worth—as they say, you can’t teach size. With a few summers of hard work, it’s not crazy to envision him earning substantial playing time later in his career—however, bet on him being a fan favorite long before that. Let’s take a look at his skill set.

Miller definitely has the speed and length Roy Williams demands of big men in his high-tempo offense. He has a nice transition finish in traffic, blazing by defenders with galloping strides and laying it in through contact at the rim. He shows a fundamentally sound, albeit somewhat clunky-looking jumper—a stretch 5 would be a tremendous addition to a UNC offense that is already looking to be potent for years to come.

He shows off a number of post moves, including a silky smooth hook shot and a lightning quick spin off the block. He has good court awareness and vision, finding an open shooter behind his back on a pick-and-roll; that kind of court awareness comes from intuition and keen focus. With all that being said, his biggest problem seems to be verticality and quickness.

"I feel like I'm a good passer and I try to run the court," Miller told Inside Carolina. "I need to add strength and quickness and work on getting more athletic in order to play at an ACC level."

These are hard things to learn, and some folks are simply born with that kind of athleticism while others are not, but that’s not to say lateral quickness or a vertical jump cannot be vastly improved with time and effort. We saw it with Kennedy Meeks and we’ll see it again.

Listen, this roster is now chock full of second generation Heels—Luke Maye, Walker Miller, and now K.J. Smith, son of UNC legend Kenny Smith. There’s going to be a lot of chatter about that, about these guys’ brothers and fathers—a lot of fan favorites. But at the end of the day, Walker Miller isn’t Wes Miller, and their styles of play aren’t particularly comparable. Walker will be beloved by Tar Heel faithful like Wes was (and still is), and, given the right situation and many late nights in the gym, he could absolutely find himself regularly seeing the by his junior year. In the meantime, he’ll make an excellent addition to what is shaping up to be a legendary Blue Steel squad.