Three sports and top grades keep student in winning form

Brian Miller shyly displays a picture of his first basketball team at Peninsula Temple Sholom. "That's me," he says, pointing to a scrawny 5-foot-1-inch blond kid, the shortest player on the team.

Now, Miller has a shelf full of awards to go with the old photo.

The 18-year-old graduating senior recently became the second athlete at San Mateo High School in 30 years to be named All-League in three sports. Miller was tapped for the Peninsula Athletic League's All-Star teams in football, basketball and tennis.

While his father and two older brothers encouraged him to excel at sports, he says it was his experience with the temple team that really taught him how to compete. At age 13, he wasn't just the shortest on the team, but one of the youngest.

"I was playing against guys that were 6 feet tall," says Miller, who has grown to about that height himself. "I got pushed around, beat up, they'd steal the ball from me. I was like, `This sport is not for me.' But the coach saw I had talent and told me to stick with it."

That year, Miller played in the youth Maccabi Games, the international Jewish olympics. The local team won a gold medal, and Miller says the victory gave him the confidence to try out for his high school team.

Miller — still tan from the tennis season — realizes the stereotype about Jews not making good athletes is limited.

"A lot of people hear, if you're Jewish, you can't play sports. When they see me, they might think, Jews can play."

Just to make sure, Miller practices hard. He and three friends play two-on-two basketball games, running the court at the local YMCA for a couple hours a day. What's more, the Hillsborough shooting guard also follows the practice games with an hour and half of weight lifting in the gym.

This season, Miller was captain of the basketball team, most valuable player, and second in the league in three-point shooting, his specialty. He and his tennis partner finished the season undefeated and tied with another pair for the league championship. In football, Miller played both offense and defense, helping his team win what's known as the "Little-Big Game" against Burlingame High School.

The blue-eyed athlete with a smile like someone on "Beverly Hills 90210," says he doesn't have a girlfriend and went to the prom with "just a friend."

It's hard to imagine Miller would have time for much of a social life. After his nightly work out, he comes home and dives into a pile of books. His academic diligence has led to a 3.8 grade point average, and both the Scholar Athlete Gold Medal from the Army and the Senior Scholar Athlete Award from San Mateo High School.

Looking back on his high school career, Miller admits combining athletics and academics was exhausting.

"Sometimes, all I wanted to do was sleep, but I had to study. My goal was to always get A's."

Next year, Miller will attempt to keep sports and studies going strong. As a business major at U.C. Santa Barbara, he will attempt to be a "walk-on" — a non-recruited player — on the basketball team there. If he makes it, he will follow in his father's fast footsteps; Robert Miller played football for the University of Wisconsin.

"He really did inspire me to play with his love of sports," Miller says of his father. "He always watched my games, and I like that. It gave us something in common."