By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
There is a visible calmness to Layne Miller.
So noticeable that it could be mistaken for an absence of intensity.
Even Russ Swartz, a 35-year coaching veteran, had to learn Miller’s characteristic tendencies and how his peace and confidence complemented a desire to win.
“He has always been that kind of player. Very calm and collected. As a junior high player, and during his freshman and sophomore years, I didn’t think he was aggressive enough and would pass up shots,” Swartz said. “I would have to get on him about that.”
At this point in his career, it is the opposition that wishes Miller was still passing up some of those shots.
He has become one of the most lethal shooters in the county, but he has also evolved from the catch-and-shoot specialist that he was as an underclassmen into a prolific offensive threat that can score and create in multiple ways.
In his first two seasons with the Wildcats, Miller, who is now a four-year letterman, scored a total of 297 points, with 216 of those points coming on 72 made 3-pointers. The math equates to 73 percent of his points coming from beyond the arc.
Last season, as a junior, Miller averaged 15 points per game, with 54 percent of his points coming on 3-pointers.
Miller’s average has jumped to 18.2 points per game, and he is on pace to become the 16th player in Mogadore boys basketball history to reach the 1,000-point milestone later this season.
“I just love the game, and I love playing with my friends and teammates,” Miller said. “We have fun together, and we have fun working hard so that we have a good chance to win every time we step onto the court.”
For Swartz, Miller is another in a seemingly endless list of backcourt standouts that he has coached throughout his three-plus-decade career, including two of the top-three scorers in Portage County history in his son Lukas Swartz (2nd all-time with 1,961 points) and Southeast’s Seth Truman (1,792 points from 1990-94).
“I have been very lucky to coach great players,” Swartz said. “I think they have all had the passion for the game of basketball and to get better every year. I know I have coached them hard during their careers, but that only works if they are willing to buy in and have a similar passion for basketball and our program that we do as coaches.
“I believe our system and culture help with the development of our players,” Swartz said. “Not only do we, as coaches, have confidence in our system and culture, but our players do, too.”
Miller inherited that trust as a freshman playing alongside a group of upperclassmen that showed him how the program worked. In time, Miller, now a senior, learned how to be that same leader for the underclassmen that are looking to him for guidance the same way he once did.
“Playing basketball for Mogadore is something that really does mean a lot,” Miller said. “We are lucky to be at a school that has that kind of tradition, and we don’t want to be the group that ruins that. And we are fortunate to have a coach like coach Swartz. He is one of the best around, and he loves the game so much. He holds us all accountable, because he wants us to do things right and he wants us to get better.”
Throughout the process, Miller has flourished and so have his teams, with the groups collecting 51 basketball wins to this point and a pair of league championships.
In that time, there have certainly been jubilant smiles and celebrations, but also difficult moments of reflection and adversity. And Miller’s perfect combination of calmness and confidence to help navigate through it all.