No one in college basketball has seen more madness this March than Alabama freshman Brandon Miller.
The 6’ 9” 20-year-old from Cane Ridge High School in Tennessee is projected right now According to ESPN, as the number three overall selection in the upcoming draft. He’s the Crimson Tide’s best player, averaging 19 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists per game.
He’s also escorted to NCAA tournament games by an armed security guard due to death threats he’s received.
Earlier this year the rising superstar was involved in a capital murder case that almost cost him his career. On the night of Saturday, January 14 Miller received a text message from former teammate Darius Miles asking him to bring a weapon to a club.
Miles used that same weapon to murder 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris early Sunday morning. Harriswas a mother of one and visiting her boyfriend before getting into an altercation at the club with Miles and his friend, Micahel Lynn Davis.
According to Tuscaloosa News, Branden Culpepper of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit’s testimony came during a preliminary hearing for Miles and Davis.
Both were charged with capital murder in the death of Harris. According to Alabama state law, capital murder is, by far, the most serious of violent crimes in Alabama. Capital murder is a Class A felony, carrying with it a potential ten years to life-sentence, or even a possible penalty of death.
Since Miller was not directly involved and had no intent or knowledge that the weapon was going to be used illegally that night, he will not be charged, according to his attorney, Jim Standridge, who released a statement in February.
“Brandon never touched the gun, was not involved in its exchange to Mr. Davis in any way, and never knew that illegal activity involving the gun would occur,” the statement read.
The University of Alabama has allowed Miller to continue playing as the case proceeds. Head basketball coach Nate Oates said that the university’s legal team saw no reason to suspend him.
“The decision was made in consultation with Tide athletic director Greg Byrne, Alabama school president Stuart Bell and the university’s legal counsel,” Oats told the Associated Press prior to the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They never violated any school policies. They’re fully cooperating witnesses and have been truthful from the minute they met with the police that day. So I’m not sure what they would have been suspended for.”
The decision to play Miller remains controversial. Harris’s mother, DeCarla Cotton, called it “unimaginable” in a USA Today interview. And Riverside men’s basketball coach Brian Strickland called it “a stain on the program.”
“Brandon Miller decided to deliver a gun to a teammate, who then took someone’s life that night,” Strickland said. “The real thing here is why a player has a gun in possession. Why is he on the team?”
Strickland also thinks that, regardless of how it does in the tournament, if players are involved in an incident like this it will take a long time to rebuild a culture of trust.
“In my world, programs are based on their characters,” he said. “As a coach, you can only do so much with players under your wing but outside of school, campus, practice, and games, it is on them. With the amount of time I have with my athletes, I feel as if it is a job to instill high-character athletes in your program, whether they are young men or women.”