Miller stood tall at Bula
The mastermind behind Edgewood’s great teams of ’30s heads to ACBF HOF
By CHRIS LARICK
For the Star Beacon
The feats Eugene Miller accomplished on the basketball court for the Ashtabula Panthers are even more impressive when one takes into account that Miller played out of position his entire high school career.
Not that Miller would necessarily agree.
At 6-foot or 6-foot-1, Miller, who will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on March 25, played center, taking on much taller players and more than holding his own.
“Yes, I was jumping center, but I could leap,” Miller said. “I could leap higher than guys who were 6-5 or 6-6.”
Miller demonstrated his athletic ability in other sports. In football, he played offensive and defensive end on Wash Lyons’ teams. In track he ran the 100 (yard dash) in 9.9, the 440 in 50 or 51 seconds. He long jumped 21 feet and was good enough in the high hurdles to qualify for the state meet.
But basketball may have been his best sport. He played on a Panther team that included ACBF Hall of Famer Jim Hood, Joey Lyons, Marvin Jones, James Holley, Jeff Craft and Ted Miller.
“All of them were little guys,” Miller said. “But they had a lot of talent. Hood was the small forward. He had a pretty jump shot. He could shoot the eyes out of the basket.”
Ashtabula was then coached by Bob Walters, another ACBF Hall of Famer.
Miller played mostly JV as a freshman, before moving up to the varsity as a sophomore and becoming a starter.
Hood, who graduated a year ahead of Miller (1971 as opposed to 1972), remembers that he played center when he was a senior, with Miller taking over the position after he graduated.
“He played football, basketball and ran track,” Hood said. “I thought he was a very well-rounded athlete.
“He probably could have gone on to the next level (college). He was one of those guys who got the job done. He didn’t do anything flashy, but he knew he had a job to do and did it.”
Though both Hood and Miller were a bit undersized for the center position, it wasn’t a problem for the Panthers, Hood said.
“Back then, we were two big guys when we played.”
“I took quick notice of Eugene when he first came into the old Rowe Jr. High and dunked it in warmups,” Tim Richards, a former Conneaut star who was inducted into the ACBF Hall of Fame last year, said. “He was a three-year starter for Ashtabula, scoring 750-plus points and averaging 15 points a game as a senior. He was first-team All-NEC and all-county his junior and senior years. In my opinion, he was the best athlete from the class of 1972 I competed against.”
After graduating from high school, he moved on to Kent State, where he hoped to play football. But it didn’t work out, and he joined the Marine Corps instead of finishing college.
There, he was able to continue an athletic career while basically working in an office during regular hours.
“I played basketball and football for the Marine Corps,” Miller said. “I made the All-Marine team. We played other service people, traveled a lot.”
In the Marines, Miller became a quarterback in football.
“I could run and throw,” he said. “We won seven out of eight Turkey Bowls. That was on or near Thanksgiving. We played against any team that thought they could beat us.”
Miller left the Marine Corps after eight years when his job was phased out.
Miller had gotten married while in the Marine Corps, to another Ashtabula graduate, Diane Page. The marriage took place in Ashtabula, then the couple returned to North Carolina while Miller continued to serve in the Marines. The couple has since divorced but remain good friends. They have two daughters, Kyla, 32, and Desiaray, 26.
After leaving the Marine Corps, Miller stayed in North Carolina, accepting a job with the city of Jacksonville, N.C.
“I was a heavy equipment operator,” he said. “I also played basketball for them until I was 35 or 36. I worked there for 20 years until I left in 2003.”
At that time, Miller accepted a job working in high security for the Marines at Camp Lejeune, the largest military base on the east coast.
Asked what he does there, Miller said, “I can’t tell you what I do (for reasons of security).”