Sunday, May 7
Miles Makes it Official

By Christopher Price and Jeff Lemberg

Darius Miles said what most everyone knew he was going to say today at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Boys & Girls Club in East St. Louis, Ill. Miles, a 6-foot-9 senior forward at East St. Louis High, announced he will make himself eligible for the 2000 NBA Draft.

But Miles couldn't stick around to talk to the media after his press conference. The 18-year-old had to rush out of the Joyner Center with his mother, Ethel, to pick up some odds and ends in preparation for his senior prom.

"Yeah, it's pretty comical," said Rick Lewis, assistant boys' basketball coach at East St. Louis High and son of head coach Benny Lewis. "Here's a kid who's going to the prom with the possibility of being a millionaire."

Miles had signed to play at St. John's University, but failed to achieve the necessary ACT score to meet NCAA requirements. But the teen was quick to point out at his press conference that his sub-par ACT score had nothing to do with his decision to turn pro.

"He simply stated that knowing what he knows now (about where he might go in the NBA Draft), even if he did have an ACT score that was high enough, he would be entering the draft," said Lewis.

According to the coach, Miles has been told even by St. John's men's basketball coach Mike Jarvis he would likely be taken somewhere between the No. 3 and No. 10 overall pick at the June 28 draft, to be held at the Target Center in Minneapolis. That "lottery" selection would ensure the teen of a three-year contract, which means he'd get paid even if the team opted to cut him.

Miles' game and statistics have steadily increased throughout his scholastic career. As a sophomore, he averaged 14.5 points per game at Lincoln High, which merged with East St. Louis two years ago. As a junior, Miles averaged 20 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists per game while leading East St. Louis to the Class AA state quarterfinals.

After a summer in which he saw action as a member of the 1998 USA men's basketball team that captured the gold medal at the World Youth Games with a 6-0 record, he returned to East St. Louis High with a vengeance. Miles averaged 22.1 points, 12.1 rebounds, 7.4 blocks and 3.4 assists a game as a senior, while shooting 66.6 percent from the field.

Miles' decision to go pro was made easier when he turned in some impressive performances at several postseason All-Star games. The slashing forward put forth a 15-point effort in 26 minutes at the Nike Hoop Summit game in April and 24 points at the Derby Classic in Louisville this past weekend. But the bottom line, at least according to Lewis, is a simple matter of dollars and sense.

"I was one of the persons who said early on, if you want to go to college to play basketball, that's one thing," said Lewis. "If you're going to college for an education, well, you can go back and do it anytime. You don't go to college to gain knowledge, you go to put yourself in a position to make more money.

"You're going to come out of college and make $50,000," Lewis added. "It will take you 20 years to make a million dollars. If they (the NBA) wants to pay you $50,000 right now, you ought to take it."

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