It did not take long for Western Beaver's opponents to realize Nick Miller was a threat to score from behind the 3-point line last season.
This season it likely won't take long for opponents to realize Miller is now a threat to score from just about anywhere on the court.
Last season Miller averaged 17.8 points per game. As the only returning starter this season Miller will have to -- at the very least -- duplicate that scoring average if the Golden Beavers hope to make another postseason appearance.
"Nick can do just about everything," Western Beaver coach Joe Podolak said. "I plan on having him all over the floor because I am sure teams are going to show us the box and one and other defenses, he has to know every position."
Miller went into the offseason fully aware of the improvements he needed to make in his game.
"Last year I shot from the outside a lot; this year I plan on attacking the hoop," Podolak said. "Teams will definitely try to take the 3-pointer away, so I am hoping it will open up the floor a little better.
Two-year starter Jacob St. George, a 5-foot-10 junior shooting guard this season, transferred to Central Valley after his family moved to Monaca, leaving Miller as the only returning starter. In an ideal situation Miller will start as shooting guard but he will also play other positions, most notably point guard.
"Nick has really improved his dribbling," Podolak said. "We have been trying to emphasize to him to get fouled and don't just rely on the outside shot. Last year he did a lot of outside shooting, this year it is more balanced."
Junior point guard Steve Robinson, junior guard Tracy Brozich and junior forward Zach Perry saw considerable playing time off the bench last season.
"We have to make sure other guys can score besides Nick," Podolak said. "We have a couple guys who are not afraid to shoot the ball."
Junior Eddie Doyle is another guard in Western Beaver's four-guard system.
Also, senior Brandon Sheeler, a 6-0 guard, has been impressive in recent practices and is making a bid to crack the starting lineup.
Miller is a three-sport athlete also playing football and baseball at Western Beaver. On the basketball team he is one of many all-round athletes.
"We got some good athletes on this team," Miller said. "We are replacing a lot of starters, but so far everyone is stepping up, we're looking pretty good."
Overall, Western Beaver should be a taller unit this season with Miller at 6-1, Perry at 6-2 plus 6-1 sophomore guard John Petrosky and 6-2 sophomore forward Cody Acon.
The Golden Beavers open their season on Dec. 7 in the McGuffey tip-off tournament. They will play Chartiers-Houston in the opener and face either McGuffey or Avella on Saturday.
Western Beaver will contend in Section 1-A, home to powerhouse Lincoln Park as well as contenders Union, Cornell and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
Western Beaver finished 10-12 overall last season and 4-6 in the section, tied for fourth place with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Lincoln Park and Cornell went on to play in the WPIAL championship game with Lincoln Park winning and advancing all the way to the state finals.