By Andrew Kahn
Last season, Southern Methodist point guard Nic Moore won his second straight Player of the Year award in the American Conference. Shake Milton, a top-100 recruit who played the same position, was moved off the ball. Milton put up great numbers and was a unanimous pick for the AAC All-Freshman Team. As a sophomore, he’s replaced Moore and helped SMU to a conference title and 27-5 record.
“To try to fill the shoes of Nic Moore in this program, for most guys is almost unfair, and yet Shake has been incredible,” SMU head coach Tim Jankovich said. “You look at our success, you always have to start with the point guard. … I’ve just been so happy with him and so proud to get a chance to coach him.”
Milton is 6’6”, but grew up playing a lot of point guard, his preferred position. He was simply too talented to keep off the floor last season, averaging 33 minutes, 10.5 points, 3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists, while shooting 44 percent from the field and 43 percent from three. He’s upped most of those numbers this season as he’s taken on the point guard role.
“He’s got great pace to his game,” said Fran Dunphy, whose Temple squad lost to SMU twice this season. “No one can hurry him up. He can score, he can make plays for others, and he’s a very good defender as well.” Most anyone familiar with Milton’s game talks about his ability to control the tempo of the game.
Milton’s Draft Express scouting video, which covers two January games, highlights how he gets his feet set quickly before shooting and his decision-making in the pick-and-roll. It notes his off-the-dribble shooting and defense could use improvement.
Tubby Smith, Memphis’ head coach, disagrees, at least about the defense. “To be that size and be able to contain — his defensive prowess creates problems for opposing guards,” he said. Smith also mentioned Milton’s rebounding and stamina (he averages 35 minutes per contest, one of four Mustangs playing at least 33 a game).
As for the nickname (Milton’s legal first name is Malik), it came from his father, according to an article from The Oklahoman (Milton is from Owasso, Oklahoma). Myrion Milton, who passed away a few years ago, was nicknamed Milkman as a basketball player at Texas A&M. When his son was still in the womb, he dubbed him Shake (as in milkshake).
He’s certainly got some wiggle in his game. Earlier this season, against Tulsa, he spun on his backside, dribbled through his legs while sitting on the floor, and found an open teammate who threw an alley-oop.
SMU was banned from the NCAA Tournament last season. After starting this season 4-3, the Mustangs have lost just once since, a two-point defeat at Cincinnati. Jerry Palm of CBS Sports currently projects SMU as a 6 seed in the Big Dance. The Mustangs have the size and versatility (Milton is one of three starters who is 6’6”; the others are 6’7” and 6’8”) and three-point shooting (four starters shoot 43 percent from deep; as a team they rank 10th in the country) to make a deep run. With Milton as the catalyst, at the very least SMU should get its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1988.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about college basketball and other sports at andrewjkahn.com, and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.