The worst thing that Miller Kopp’s dad ever did was get his sons boxing gloves for Christmas.
Kopp has three brothers: Maddox, a football player at Miami University, Anderson, a basketball player at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Braden, who played football at Vanderbilt University.
With a family full of athletes, competition was natural. But, according to the Indiana men’s basketball graduate forward, all they ever did was beat each other up.
“We really just fought all the time –– in a good way,” Kopp said. “Playing one-on-one, two-on-two in our driveway late at night, we had the cops called on us a couple times, because there was yelling and screaming.”
But without his rough-and-tumble upbringing, Kopp wouldn’t be the person or basketball player he is right now, and he wouldn’t have the same mental drive that has led the Hoosiers to a recent stretch of success after a three-game losing skid.
“That really shaped me into who I am,” Kopp said. “Without my brothers, I’m not who I am today. Even my mom –– she works her tail off; she works the hardest in my family. It’s in my nature to grind and work and be that dude who is willing to do whatever to win.”
His gritty winning mentality, one of Kopp’s biggest emerging traits, was put on perfect display in No. 18 Indiana men’s basketball’s 66-60 win over No. 24 Rutgers. Kopp scored 18 points, grabbed two steals and swatted one block while playing 35 minutes.
Even with an impressive 4-6 outing from beyond the arc, his shooting was overshadowed by his energy, scrappiness and leadership on the court.
“He was getting good looks, and he knocked them in,” head coach Mike Woodson said. “But not just scoring the 18 points –– hell, he was pretty good defensively, too, tonight. He did a lot of good things defensively for us.”
From diving on the floor for loose balls, chasing after tip-outs and shiftily cutting all around Indiana’s frontcourt to open up looks for senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, Kopp executed the intangibles to perfection against Rutgers. And, even though he’s become much more than a three-point specialist, all of Kopp’s long-range shots seemed to come at just the right time for the Hoosiers
“Miller doesn't get a lot of shots, but he's efficient,” Woodson said. “He makes shots when he has to make them, and that's huge for a team when you are trying to win.”
Kopp and Jackson-Davis worked a two-man game with precise cuts, feeds and kickouts all night. Kopp, who finished with a team-high 21 points in the loss against Rutgers Dec. 3, said he studied tape from the previous contest to determine where he and his teammates would be open.
“I knew coming into the game how their wings guard off the ball and, looking at last game's film, how they guarded Trayce...finding where the gaps are in the defense, especially when Trayce has the ball in the post,” Kopp said. “I'm always trying to move and get in his line of vision, and when we lock eyes, I know it's coming.”
For Kopp, patience is a virtue. He knows when to wait his turn, both during the play at hand and with his role on the team as a whole. Offensive production isn’t indicative of Kopp’s success, but he knows when to take full advantage of every chance he gets.
“It's just being super opportunistic, that's all, really,” Kopp said.
And now, he’s reaping the benefits of his attitude, earning praise from his teammates and contributing to Indiana’s success one gutsy play at a time
“He's a competitor,” Jackson-Davis said. “He's going to do whatever Coach asks him to do. He was really, really locked in on the defensive end, and when you're playing like that on both sides of the ball –– a player like him –– he really impacts the game at a high level.”
It’s a simple concept, really: it’s in Kopp’s blood.