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Citrus forward Joel Miller, a 6-foot-2 three-year starter, arrived at Citrus when the Hurricanes weren't highly regarded.
Tonight, they play Orlando Jones, ranked No. 7 in the state poll, in the region semifinals. The senior averages 16.5 points and five rebounds, and some area coaches think he might be the best defender around.
In a Q&A with staff writer Keith Niebuhr, Miller talks about the Hurricanes, teammate Jamaal Galloway and the excitement of being in the playoffs.
KN: Describe the program when you arrived.
JM: We were kind of average. Maybe even a little below average.
KN: How did things get turned around?
JM: Coaching. (Hurricanes coach Jimmy Thomas) brought discipline to the program. He has been there before and he knows what he's doing.
KN: What was it like beating the defending state champs (St. Augustine Nease) last week?
JM: Great. It's a long time coming. We've had a lot of hard work and it feels like it's paying off now. That had to be the best feeling of my basketball career. When the fans rushed the court and we had that big pileup, it was incredible.
KN: Nease trailed early then made a great charge in the fourth quarter. How tense did it get and what did the coaches say?
JM: Basically, that we just needed to keep our composure. We didn't want it to be our last game. We'd worked too hard for it to end.
KN: Let's face it, Citrus hasn't had many close games. Will that battle with Nease (a 55-51 win) help?
JM: Oh yeah, that helps a lot. It gives us confidence going into the next game. We know we can play with the better teams. People always doubted us.
KN: What do you know about Jones?
JM: They put a lot of pressure on you. The one thing we have to do is handle the press. Basically, we're going to have to play the perfect game to beat them.
KN: The first round was at home. Now, you're on the road.
JM: It's real tough on the road, especially in the playoffs. But from what I hear we'll have a lot of fans there, so it might be like a home game. All the odds are against us and having some fans there will definitely help.
KN: How good is Citrus guard Jamaal Galloway?
JM: He's better than people think. How can I put it ... I play with him every day. On weekends, we go shoot all the time. He's awesome. He's the best shooter I've ever seen. In practice we do drills together and he never misses. And if he does miss, he gets really frustrated. That's something I like about him. He's very competitive.
KN: What does he need to work on?
JM: He's got the shooting down, but he needs to improve his down low game so he can get ready for the big guys. Once you get to college everybody is big. And he'll probably have to work on his (ball) handling, because I think he might have to play point guard.
KN: What's coach Thomas like?
JM: Off the court, he's a great coach. He'll always tell you what you're doing wrong. On the court, he's never satisfied. That's good because if you're ever satisfied with anything you'll never be able to get better.
KN: Your bracket has four ranked teams. Looks like you guys kind of got ripped off, huh?
JM: I look at it both ways. In a way it's frustrating, but if you beat these teams, you should be the team to beat (at the final four). If you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best.