Miller nearing end to record-setting UPJ hoops career

The 3-point arc on a basketball floor was probably designed with players like Jordan Miller in mind.

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown standout, who set the all-time Central Cambria High School basketball scoring record during his high school days, is a shooting magician, especially from beyond the 3-point line.

Miller, a 6-foot, 175-pound senior shooting guard, set a new UPJ record for career 3-point field goals on Saturday by making four in the Mountain Cats’ 78-64 victory over West Virginia Wesleyan at the UPJ Sports Complex. Miller now has 271 career 3-pointers, breaking the previous UPJ school record of 267 set by Danny Branch in 2011.

Last season as a junior, Miller established a UPJ single-season school record for 3-pointers by drilling 92.

Miller, 21, started playing basketball in a recreation league in Windber at the tender age of 4. He credits his father, Mark, with teaching him shooting skills as a young boy.

“From a young age, my dad really taught me how to shoot a basketball and did a great job teaching me how to play the game,” Miller said. “I always knew that I wasn’t going to be very tall, and that I would be playing outside [rather than underneath the basket]. I developed my outside shot playing in middle and high school. I just tried to do what I’m best at most.”

Miller is a 2009 graduate of Central Cambria High School, where he scored a record 2,105 points. He also holds the school’s career assist mark (525) and career steal mark (320).

Miller was named the Altoona Mirror’s 2008-09 Athlete of the Year.

“That was something I never really expected,” Miller said of the recognition from the Mirror. “It was the perfect way to top off my high school career. It definitely meant a lot to me.”

So do his experiences and memories from an outstanding basketball career at UPJ, where he was a four-year starter.

“I’ve been very blessed to have been able to go there and play for four years,” Miller said. “I’ve had great coaches, great teammates and a great family who have all supported everything I’ve done. I’ve had a chance to experience some great things individually and as a member of a team. I’m very happy with my decision to go there.”

So is Bob Ruckavina, who is in his 24th season as the Mountain Cats’ head men’s basketball coach.

“Jordan is a very smart basketball player,” said Ruckavina, who is using Miller primarily as a shooting guard rather than at the point position he played at Central Cambria. “He’s an excellent passer, and he’s one of the top shooters I’ve ever coached here. If he gets an open shot, you expect it to go in the basket when he shoots it. That’s a good feeling for a coach.

“And as good a player as he’s been, he’s been an even better kid. He’s a super young man. I’ve enjoyed having him on the team for the past four years.”

The soft-spoken and humble Miller is happy to have set the school’s 3-point record, but is also quick to give his teammates credit for helping him to achieve the milestone.

“It definitely means a lot to me, especially with all the great players who have gone there,” said Miller, who has been averaging 14 points per game this season. “It’s a real honor to be up there with the top shooters at this school. But I would never have been able to get that record without the help of my teammates finding me for the open shot, and the support of my teammates, coaches, family and friends for helping me get to that level where I could achieve that.”

Among those teammates for the past four seasons has been UPJ’s Nick Novak, a senior point guard. Novak is second on UPJ’s all-time scoring list with 1,791 career points, while Miller is 12th with 1,260 points.

“I first met Jordan when we were seniors in high school,” said Novak, who graduated from Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville. “It’s been great playing with him for four years. We’re such a nice complement to one another on the basketball court. I really like to drive and get to the hoop, and Jordan loves shooting the 3s.

“He’s one of the best pure shooters I’ve ever played with, and we’re kind of like a dual threat on the floor. Opponents have to worry about me going to the hoop and him shooting. We pretty much go perfect together.”

Miller will graduate from UPJ with a degree in business administration this spring. His career goal is to become a college basketball coach, and with his skill set, knowledge of, and love for, the game, he would assuredly be a very good one.

“I’m looking to go on to a school where I could become a graduate assistant and get my master’s degree paid for,” Miller said. “My goal is to become a head coach in college, preferably on the Division I level.”