Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series about first year coaches who moved into or became a head coach in Stephens County High School sports.
The last couple of years, Coach Justin Miller spent his time at a bigger school. Wanting to get back to his small town roots, Miller accepted the position as the new Bray-Doyle Donkeys boys basketball coach.
Miller, a graduate of a small school in Oklahoma, has had several stops in his coaching career but the 2019-2020 school year saw him come to coach the Donkeys in Stephens County.
“It was good to be back in a small public school in Oklahoma — that is what I am used to. I am a small town kid,” Miller said. “It felt like me being back in my old high school where it is small and everyone knows everybody and that meant a lot to me.”
Dealing with some injuries to several key players, the Donkeys had a hard start to the 2019-2020 season. Miller helped his team earn a couple of victories to end the year and helped them enjoy basketball again.
“We had a lot of inexperienced guys that hadn’t played for a little time and we got to see them improve but a lot of those guys who didn’t play much were also seniors too,” Miller said. “We will be losing some size in our post area but at the same time, even though we are losing size, we still (have) one of our big guys coming back.”
Miller, who will coach the Donkeys for a second season in 2020-2021, said he has two freshman on their way up which will give them a great defensive look along with a couple of younger players returning.
“I think we are going to be better defensively and it is going to be a different dynamic — we got a year under our belt and my style of play and my style of system,” Miller said. “It was a rough year but all-in-all, I am looking forward to next year defensively because even though we are not going to be as big, we will be a lot faster with the players coming up. It will be different because of game dynamics and will have that speed to pressure the ball.”
While the Donkeys planned to use some of this summer to get better and prepare for the next season, the pandemic has made it difficult to schedule any camps.
Despite this, Miller said he is happy to see players excited about playing basketball in general.
“We saw some kids who are starting to understand different defenses and scenarios and they are starting to read opponent defenses,” Miller said. “That shows we are moving in the right direction. Now we don’t have to teach from square one and now we are like on square 20 now and we don’t have to backtrack, we can just start from where we ended last season and improve on that and ultimately as a coach that is what you want to do. The kids have already told me that they are ready for basketball. That tells me tons when the kids get a little hungry to play the game.”