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Webster University men’s basketball player returns to the court after four-year absence
Kevin Miller broke his foot in 2009. Doctors advised him to quit basketball in 2010, and he weighed 420 pounds by March 2013; at that time, he was drinking heavily up to three times a week. Alcohol-free and 120 pounds lighter, Miller returned to the basketball court on Nov. 16, 2013. Miller said he never imagined he would return to the basketball court for Webster.
“I was very nervous,” Miller said. “I knew I kind of had a lot on my shoulders just because I was given a second chance to come back and play.”
In May 2013, Miller reached out to former Webster Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Michael Siener — the current head men’s soccer coach and head men’s tennis coach —about returning to Webster. Siener told Head Men’s Basketball Coach Chris Bunch that Miller was interested in returning to Webster and playing on the team.
“We both kind of laughed,” Siener said. “The last time Bunch had seen him (Miller) was when he weighed 120 pounds heavier than he is now, and he (Bunch) was like ‘oh god, there’s no way.’”
The defining moment that inspired Miller to give up alcohol came in March 2013 when he went to Austin, Texas to visit friends.
The trip turned into a six-day party filled with alcohol. Miller only slept for two hours the night before he left Austin and was still intoxicated the next morning. As he stepped on the train for a 22-hour ride back to St. Louis, Miller’s days of drinking reached a breaking point.
“I never had hangovers before,” Miller said. “My head hurt, my body was weak, and I was just like ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”
On the ride home, Miller began talking to his friend Derrick Kilgore about losing weight, and eliminating alcohol from his life. Miller said Kilgore reinforced this idea by reminding him that he was young and had the energy to cut the alcohol and lose weight.
Kilgore knows from experience; In 2012, he lost 104 pounds in eight months.
The Amtrak train arrived in St. Louis at 8 a.m. on March 18, 2013. By noon that day, Miller was in the gym working out for the first time since the fall of 2011.
Miller ate a lot of food from World of Wings (WOW) and Marletto’s Marketplace on Webster’s campus while going through rehabilitation for his foot and knee injuries. He believes the two establishments contributed to his weight gain. Miller worked out five days per week, running six miles on elliptical machines and treadmills during each workout. He chose those machines because they were easy on his knees and feet.
Miller started shedding the pounds almost immediately after he began his workout routine.
His goal was to get down to 270 pounds as fast as possible. When Miller lost more weight than Kilgore, Kilgore was motivated to continue losing weight.
Miller’s right foot gave out and was broken in four different places during a December 2008 match against Westminster College. He was forced to sit the rest of the season out.
Without basketball in his life, Miller said he didn’t feel the same and his grades suffered.
“It was kind of like I didn’t have a purpose to be in school,” Miller said. “I’ve never been struggling with my grades to the point where I had to fight to play.”
Miller attended summer school in 2009 hoping he would be eligible to play the following season.
He returned to Webster’s basketball court for the 2009-’10 season and played only 13 games before he developed knee problems.
Doctors warned Miller to consider quitting basketball if he wanted to retain his ability to walk normally and maintain a normal lifestyle in 2010.
“It was crushing,” Miller said. “I played basketball since I was a little kid. And just having someone tell you that to be able to have a normal life when you’re older, you have to stop playing something you’ve loved since you were a kid … It’s not anything any athlete wants to hear.”
Heeding the advice of the doctors, Miller told Bunch he was quitting the basketball team. Miller said he was okay with quitting at the time because he knew it would benefit his health.
Miller transferred to University of Missouri — St. Louis (UMSL) in 2010, where he remained for one semester. Miller was overwhelmed by the 750 students in his first class. He was not used to having such large class sizes compared to Webster’s average class size of 25 people.
Miller left UMSL and took a year off from school before returning to Webster as a part-time student in 2011. When Miller returned part-time, he worked at an East St. Louis restaurant called Big Mama’s BBQ Express.
Returning to Webster, and adjusting lifestyles
After three months of structured workouts from March to June 2013, Miller played in his first basketball tournament in three years at Rockwood Summit High School with a group of his friends. Kilgore did not play in the Rockwood tournament, but played basketball with Miller. Kilgore said he and Miller would play a lot of one-on-one basketball when Kilgore was trying to lose weight.
“He’s a monster out there on the court,” Kilgore said.
That tournament reminded Miller of his love for basketball. Miller said watching college basketball on TV during his time off kept his love for the game alive.
Once Miller played in the tournament at Rockwood Summit, he realized how much he missed playing the sport.
He spoke with Bunch for the first time in February 2013.
Bunch was shocked to see how much weight Miller had lost. He said he would allow Miller to join the Webster team again if he continued to pursue his goal weight of 270 pounds.
Achieving his goal weight required more than just working out. Miller changed his eating habits by finding healthier alternatives and putting his own twist on meals. He said changing his diet was easy, but ousting alcohol from his life proved to be difficult.
“I’ve had two drinks since March,” Miller said. “That’s one thing that when everybody talks to me about, I’m pretty proud to say.”
Bunch said he was glad to see Miller return.
“It’s been very gratifying for me personally to be able to just give him the opportunity,” Bunch said.
Bunch said Miller is now a better player than he was five years ago when he started at Webster.
So far, out of the four games this season, Miller scored in the double digits in all four games.
Though he was nervous at first, Miller said he is grateful for the second chance. Physical therapy to tend to his injuries and his healthier diet have prepared him for that second chance.
“I have no worries now going out on the court,” Miller said.