MORGAN -- Last year, during his junior season, Morgan High's Jake Miles established himself as one of the premier outside shooters in the state. Heading into the quarterfinal round of the boys state 3-A basketball tournament at Dixie State College, Miles was averaging better than 20 points a game.
But against eventual champion Hurricane, Miles was held to just 11 points on 2-of-12 shooting. He was hounded and pushed around all game long by the Tigers' Benson Rich. The 11 points was Miles' second-lowest output of the season.
What he learned from that game helped Miles become a complete player as a senior -- one who could not only score from outside, but could respond to physical play by slashing to the basket for easy layups or trips to the free throw line. He also increased his assist production from 2.0 to 2.6 per game -- all while leading the state in scoring. When you add that to Miles' critical role in the Trojans' first state championship in 39 years, it's not hard to see why the 6-foot-2 guard is this year's most valuable player on the Standard-Examiner all-area team.
"I think a big motivating factor for Jake was the state tournament last year," Morgan coach Jim Wiscombe said. "He really got physicalled during that tournament. And teams tried to be physical with him again this year. But the difference was he attacked the physical play this year and went to the free throw line a lot. Last year he kind of shied away from it. He shot more free throws this year than any player I've ever had. That's because he would take it to the hole and attack rather than just stay away and shoot jump shots."
"I learned a lot from that (Hurricane) game," Miles said. "I said to myself, 'I can't let the physical play take me out of the game.' So this offseason I worked really hard on the weights and embraced the contact. I didn't want what happened in that game to happen again. That was a big goal of mine, knowing I'd get a lot of attention on the court."
When teams attempted to get physical with him this year and tried to shut down his long range game, Miles made them pay from the free throw line. He scored nearly 100 points more from the line this year than he did as a junior. He increased his free throw percentage from 81 percent as a junior to 91.7 as a senior while shooting 84 more free throw attempts.
During the three games of the Trojans' championship run at WSU's Dee Events Center, Miles went to the line 32 times, making 28.
"There are four ways to score on a basketball court," Miles said. "You can score with 3s, mid-range jumpers, layups and foul shots. And if my will to score is higher than their will to stop me, then I'm going to end up finding a way to score. That's basically how I went into each game. You might stop me from shooting 3s, but you're not going to stop me from getting to the free throw line. It was taking what the defense gives me and having confidence in myself."
Miles led all 3-A scorers with 24.7 points per game, including a season-high 39 points in two and a half quarters against Tooele on Jan. 4. Five days after that game, Miles poured in 38 against Bear River and then nine days later scored another 38 against Ogden. In all, Miles had six games of 30 or more points during his senior season. He reached double figures in every game during his junior and senior years -- 50 straight games. For his career, he scored over 1,200 points, while his team finished second, fifth and first in state.
"We had a lot of good players this year, but we also had a great player in Jake," Wiscombe said. "And that helped the other guys, too. When a lot of attention was put on Jake, then somebody else was open and got looks that they might not have had had Jake not been as good a player as he was."
Basketball has been part of Miles' life for as long as he can remember. Growing up in the Kirk Miles household was like that.
"I was born into a basketball family," Miles, the youngest of six children, said. "During basketball season, it's always on TV. We're always watching games. I also went to the basketball games of my older brothers and sisters. For a time, there was a basketball game going on every night. Growing up in that environment, I wanted to have my turn. Around first or second grade is when I started playing and realized I was pretty good and I loved it."
Except for a short time when he thought he'd grow up and become a bull rider, Miles has devoted much of his life to improving himself on and off the basketball court.
When Miles' shot was nearly perfected, he started focusing on outsmarting his opponents and keeping his composure.
"From my freshman year, my dad would tell me here and there what I needed to do with my shooting," Miles said. "But mostly he was coaching my head. One of his famous lines he's always said is, 'Ninety percent of sports is played above your shoulders.' That definitely rubbed off on me this year. I took what he taught me and applied it to my games. All year I had kids trying to get in my head. If you let them get into your head, you let them win. The biggest thing is keeping mentally tough when people are trying to get at you."
With his LDS mission papers ready to go, Miles, who turns 19 in May, anticipates spending two years away from basketball before making his mark at the college level. But don't think he's going to sit around while his talent wastes away. He's already back on the court working on his shot.
"I know that you can achieve anything as long as you put your mind to it and you are willing to work for it," Miles said. "Over my high school career I've worked really hard to be where I'm at. Some people might think that I just have this natural ability. But that's not it. I've worked my butt off to be where I am today and I'll keep on doing that. I took a week off after state, but I haven't missed a day after that, still knowing that I have to continue to prove myself. I haven't arrived. My goal is to reach my full potential, and I'm not even close."