NBA Basketball - INACTIVE

Oliver Miller enshrined into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor

Oliver Miller, known as the Big O, was a dominating center for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Oliver Miller, known as the Big O, was a dominating center for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas Communications

The symbolic moment wasn’t lost on Oliver Miller.

At the time last week, Miller was sitting in a swanky banquet room inside the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, Ark., and in the company of the incomparable Nolan Richardson and Lou Holtz. Like Holtz, Miller was there to be inducted into the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor.

The honor had previously been bestowed upon Richardson, who coached Miller at the University of Arkansas from 1988-92. Miller, of course, took it all in with all the excitement of a kid turned loose in a toy store.

"It was very humbling and a blessing just to be considered to be a part of that,’’ Miller said. "A reporter asked me do I think it was long overdue.

"I said, ‘For what? It’s not when I want to do it, it’s when the time comes to do it.’ I’m in it now.’’

During Miller’s four years at Arkansas, the Razorbacks had one of the most prestigious basketball programs in the country. In that four-year span, Arkansas posted an impressive 115-24 record for a staggering 82.8 winning percentage.

Miller, who graduated from Fort Worth Southwest High School in 1988, was at the forefront of that massive winning by the Razorbacks, along with teammates Todd Day and Lee Mayberry. Their efforts helped Arkansas to a pair of second-round appearances in the NCAA tournament, a trip to the Final Four in 1990 and a berth in the Elite Eight in 1991.

"When people came to see us, they didn’t come to see any individuals,’’ Miller said. "They came to see the Razorbacks.

"I held Lee accountable, he held me accountable, and everybody held each other accountable. Everybody’s name was the same – the Arkansas Razorbacks.’’

Back then, the moniker for the Razorbacks was "40 minutes of hell,’’ taken for their penchant for running the floor at a breakneck pace and applying defensive pressure all the time.

"That makes me sweat just thinking about it,’’ Miller said. "I told (the current players) we weren’t allowed to have water breaks.

"Water? Man, if coach sniffed that you’re thinking about water we were going to run."

At 6-foot-9 and around 300 pounds, Miller was and still is a legend up in the Ozarks. Affectionately known as the Big O, he still holds the school record for field goal percentage (63.6 percent) and blocks (345) in a career, and is third in rebounds (886) and ninth in points scored (1,674).

In the 1990-91 campaign, Miller led the nation in field goal shooting (70.4 percent) and also set the Arkansas single-season record for blocks with 112. That same season Miller became the first Razorback to accumulate at least 100 blocks and 100 assists in the same year, and also was a first-team all-Southwest Conference performer.

When it came time for Miller to receive his Hall of Honor plaque last Friday, he was emotional.

"I had to speak in front of all those people, so I was nervous,’’ Miller said. "I’m a jokester and a prankster, but in front of everybody. . .

"Lou Holtz was in my class, and he knew who I was. I was like, ‘Dang, Lou Holtz knows me?’”

Miller’s emotions particularly got the best of him when it came time to talk about the two people closest to him – his mother, Annie Miller, and his coach, Nolan Richardson.

"I broke down when I started talking about coach Richardson, because he was like a father to me,’’ Miller said. "Every Father’s Day I’ve been calling him and telling him Happy Father’s Day.

"And when I started talking about my mom. But other than that, I was good.’’

Arkansas left the SWC and joined the Southeastern Conference after Miller’s junior season. But the winning didn’t stop as the Razorbacks captured the SEC championship during their first year in that conference.

"When we practiced against each other, coach used to have to make us stop practicing,’’ Miller said. "That’s how intense our practices were.

"Teams wondered why during crunch time we weren’t tired. Man, we do this every day.’’

The loveable Miller recalled the times when Bill Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas and later the two-term President of the United States, used to occasionally attend their college games.

"They said I was the second-most beloved person in Arkansas behind Bill Clinton,’’ Miller said. "When they did the Final Four reunion (a few years ago), they brought Bill back and when they announced Bill Clinton, I felt like I was back in Phoenix at a professional game it got so loud.’’

Last Saturday, when the Razorbacks’ football team hosted Louisiana Tech, Miller and the rest of this year’s Sports Hall of Honor class were introduced at halftime.

"When I got to the football game, I said I’m fixing to feel all this love,’’ Miller said. "They said my name and I got a bunch of cheers.

"Then they said Lou Holtz, and you thought they were at Jerry World (Arlington’s AT&T Stadium) it got so loud in there.’’

Miller parlayed his high school and college success into an eight-year career in the NBA. He may have been undersized as a center, yet he used his athleticism, wide frame and quick hands to become a first-round draft pick – No. 22 overall – by the Phoenix Suns in 1992.

Now 46, Miller was 40 years old when he played pro ball for the last time in 2010 for Lawton–Fort Sill Cavalry of the Premier Basketball League. Miller said his walk down memory lane last weekend to his college days at Arkansas was priceless.

"We had an alumni golf tournament – a scramble – last Friday, and we won, so I got a plaque for that, too,’’ said Miller, who played for the Dallas Mavericks during the 1996-97 season. "So I came home with a bunch of hardware.

"But I don’t think I’ll be taking any pictures for about a month. I need to rest my cheeks.’’

 

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