Naval Academy on hold as prospective cadet recovers from gunshot wound
By ELTON HAYES | The Meridian Star, Miss. | Published: July 7, 2018
MERIDIAN, Miss. (Tribune News Service) — Sherrod Miller eagerly anticipated checking each passing month off his calendar. For the proud father, it meant his son, Miles, was one month closer to enrolling in college.
Miles Miller committed to play basketball at the United States Naval Academy, and his well-attended March signing ceremony was a fitting celebration for the standout basketball player with the 4.5 grade-point average.
But for now, the Naval Academy and Miles Miller's basketball dreams will have to wait.
On April 22, Miles Miller was the victim of a gunshot to his right leg at the Waffle House on Highway 19 North in Meridian. The incident left the community and the Miller family in shock, and prematurely halted Miles' basketball career.
Sherrod Miller vividly remembers receiving the phone call that morning.
"His friends who were transporting him to the hospital called us and said they were en route to the hospital, Miles had been shot," Sherrod Miller said. "I couldn't speak, literally, for three days after that. I just couldn't talk. You look at it and are just really, really angry for a few minutes, and then you realize that you have to go spiritual to understand and follow God's lead on it."
Miles Miller was transferred to Jackson's University of Mississippi Medical Center and underwent a three-hour surgery on his right leg – the first of two operations. Doctors inserted titanium into his right fibula, which was cracked by the force of the bullet.
The injury has forced Miller to delay his admission into the Naval Academy for a year. The service academy's Plebe Summer – a seven-week physical training program – began late last month.
"He won't be ready for Plebe Summer; he's supposed to report on June 27," Sherrod Miller said in June. "They gave him a grace period, but we said, 'Well if he's not ready then, what do you do?' And they're going to delay it for a year. I just don't want to rush his injury; he has the rest of his career. So we're just going to take the delay."
The situation has been difficult to grasp, but the Millers have found strength through their relationship with Christ and through the support of Rev. Chester Davis and the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church congregation.
"That's the only way that we could get through this – just look at it through a spiritual realm," Sherrod Miller said. "God has something special planned for Miles, and we're excited to watch it transpire."
But even with faith, it isn't always easy.
Sherrod Miller recalled having to console his son one night at their home after the reality of the situation overtook his emotions. The injury has put the opportunity to receive a Naval Academy education valued at $450,000 on hold. The questions and whys aren't easily answered.
"He cried to me one night when he was hurt and in pain: 'Daddy, I did everything I'm supposed to do, everything was just taken away from me just like that,'" Sherrod Miller said. "I can't answer that – it's spiritual. I haven't always been like that, but I've learned to trust God."
Recovery on track
Through his recovery, Miles Miller has persevered.
Three mornings each week, he visits Collinsville Physical Therapy to work with Dan Fritts, and Sherrod Miller said Miles has taken to doing additional rehabilitation on his own.
"We're doing it all now: weight training, lateral movement drills, we're even incorporating some basketball drills into it just trying to get me back how I used to be," Miles Miller said.
Under Fritts' direction, Miller works on calisthenics, lateral movement activity and assisted jumping with the hopes of strengthen his right leg enough to play basketball again.
"He's a remarkable young man," Fritts said. "He's got a lot of character, and I think because of who he is, his recovery has gotten so much better. But he has a challenging path ahead of him if his goal is to play competitive college ball. And I really believe that he can play college ball. It's going to be a long, arduous process, but I have confidence that he'll make the recovery."
Miller said although the training has been difficult, he's pleased with the progress he's made with the hour-and-half to two-hour-long sessions.
"It's definitely been a grind, but this physical therapy has helped me a lot," he said. "I'm a lot further along than we expected me to be, and it's just been great."
Miller's resilience and positive outlook since the April incident has inspired many, including his father.
"I've been more impressed with him being an 18-year-old kid who got shot, and who had an opportunity and lost it," Miller said. "I've just been really impressed with how strong he's been. Throughout the whole process, he's been very, very strong and very brave."
Looking for a landing
The Millers are in the process of finding a landing spot for Miles for the fall. The recent development has resulted in a renewed interest from schools.
"JuCos, four-year schools," Sherrod Miller said. "It's gotten out that there's a situation (and) they're staring the whole recruiting process over, and (Miles) doesn't want to go back through that. So we're just going to take the ones that we've talked with, meet and pray about it, and make some decisions."
Meridian police have arrested three men in connection with the shooting and have charged them with aggravated assault, shooting into a dwelling and shooting into a vehicle.
"We're just very grateful that the Meridian Police Department is working extremely hard to solve the case, and we're pleased with their work," Sherrod Miller said. "It's just disheartening when the good kids, the kids who are doing everything that they're supposed to do, get caught up in foolishness and they have to miss out on their dreams and goals. That's why I'm angry. But are we pleased and grateful that he's still alive? Yes. But are we angry? Yes."
The Millers said they will reach a decision in early July as to where Miles will play next season. Sherrod Miller said he and his family appreciate the support and concern from those in the community who have reached out and offered their support over the last two months.
"I want to thank everyone for praying for his recovery, and (ask them) to continue praying that he recovers fully," Sherrod Miller said.
(c)2018 The Meridian Star (Meridian, Miss.)
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