Harvard's LDS hoopster

Mission-bound player enjoying success at Ivy League school

These are strange days at Harvard University. For centuries, the Ivy League school has earned renown for producing everything from U.S. presidents (from John Adams — class of 1755 — through Barack Obama) to computer industry icons (think Bill Gates and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg).

But the Crimson's reputation on the hardwood is far less illustrious. Harvard has never really been counted among the nation's top basketball programs — or attracted top Latter-day Saint hoopsters. That's all changed this season. The team is ranked in the top-25 (a historic first) and enjoying, at press time, a record of 20 wins against just two losses. Part of the squad's success can be attributed to a lifelong Latter-day Saint who — again, at press time — was waiting for his mission call to arrive and will soon leave Cambridge for two years to serve the Lord.

Harvard freshman guard Corbin Miller, a lifelong Church member from Utah, has played a pivotal role
Harvard freshman guard Corbin Miller, a lifelong Church member from Utah, has played a pivotal role in the Crimson's basketball success. He is awaiting the arrival of a full-time mission call. | Photo by Gil Talbot

Corbin Miller had not originally planned to attend Harvard while competing at Sandy, Utah's Brighton High School. Traditionally, the Miller family has stayed out West to play college basketball. Corbin's grandfather, Larry Miller, played at Nevada-Las Vegas, while his father, Bret Miller, played at BYU-Hawaii. A cousin, Nathan Miller, suited up for Weber State in Ogden, Utah. But when the Crimson began recruiting Corbin, he soon discovered that the interest was mutual.

"I made a visit to the school and really enjoyed it," he said.

During the recruiting process, Corbin made Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker and his staff aware that he planned to leave the team at some point to serve a two-year mission. Undeterred, the school offered him a spot on the roster. "The [team] has been great about my decision to serve a mission," he said. "They've all been supportive of what I want to do."

It's proven to be a good decision for Corbin and the Crimson. Coming off the bench, the freshman has averaged over three points a game and has shot almost 50 percent from behind the 3-point line. He has yet to miss a free throw and his recent game-high 13 points, on 5-for-6-shooting, against rival Dartmouth earned him Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors.

"[Corbin] has been a joy to coach, first of all," said Coach Amaker in an story. "He's learned our system very well and quite quickly. I've been impressed with Corbin's competitiveness. He's a competitive kid, and I think that has really allowed him to earn the respect of his teammates and allowed him to be in a position to be in our rotation and to be playing valuable minutes."

Corbin admits that the move from Utah to the Boston area has taken him away from friends and family. And he admits to sometimes feeling out of his comfort zone. "But there have also been so many opportunities, and I've met some great people."

He added that many of his new classmates had never met a Mormon. But he's found most to be open and respectful of his religious convictions. There are several dozen members on campus and Corbin has enjoyed the support of his young single adult ward and the local institute program.

A strong student, Corbin has enjoyed Harvard's academic rigor. Once he returns from his mission he will likely focus his studies on economics or some other business-related field.

Making the jump to Division 1 college basketball has posed other challenges for the 6-foot-2-inch Corbin.

"The guys are so much bigger, faster and stronger — it was a big adjustment," he said. But Corbin added he's having a memorable experience playing for a winning team and he's excited to experience "March Madness." Next month the Crimson team is poised to compete in college basketball's biggest stage — the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

"It is a tremendous time to be here. It's been a fun experience."

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