By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Scoring 1,000 career points in high school basketball doesn’t mean what it used to.
Make no mistake, any player who reaches the milestone is a special talent. But with more games on the schedule each season (except this one, of course), the embracement of the three-point shot and a gradual increase in scoring over the years, we’re seeing more 1,000-point scorers than ever.
To add perspective, consider this — if you play varsity basketball as a freshman, you don’t even have to average 10 points per game over the course of your career to score 1,000 points if you remain healthy, since you will have played at least 104 games, assuming your team plays the maximum 26 regular-season games each season. And that doesn’t even include at least one state playoff game each season.
None of this, however, applies to the case of Diante Miles, the senior guard from the Wildwood High School boys basketball team who enters the final week of his career needing only 12 points to become the program’s 22nd 1,000-point scorer.
Miles was a starter and had been averaging 9.5 points per game as a sophomore, when, in late January of that season, he took an awkward fall in a game at Penns Grove and broke his wrist. He missed the final 14 games of the season. Add to that the 12 or more games he will have missed as a senior since the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the current season to just 15 games and Miles has missed more than one full season of high school basketball.
Yet here he is, on the cusp of joining many of the school’s all-time greats on its board of 1,000-point scorers that’s prominently displayed in the gymnasium.
One of the players he’ll join is his older brother, Kyion Flanders, a 2018 graduate who’s Wildwood’s all-time leading scorer with 2,130 points.
“Diante’s been a great player and a great scorer for us, similar to his brother,” Wildwood coach Scott McCracken said. “His brother got a chance to play as a freshman. Diante didn’t but that was more a case of who was in front of him. Then his sophomore year, he was really starting to have a nice year and then he got hurt.”
Miles returned as a junior and led the team in scoring at 19.8 points per game. He also topped a 20-win Warrior team in assists at 4.0 per game and was second in rebounding at 4.5 per contest.
This season, Miles is averaging 21.7 points for a Wildwood team that has won 11 straight games entering Monday’s Tri-County Conference Tournament home game against Highland.
“He can shoot the basketball but the last year or so, and especially this year, he’s really developed his game where he can knock down a shot but then he can also go to the rim and finish,” McCracken said. “He didn’t have that as much in his arsenal when he was younger but now he can really finish at the rim. And then you add some of the little things that he does, like knocking down foul shots and being able to defend. He’s developed into a really good player.”
Miles is trying to balance his approach to a personal milestone with making sure he does what he can to help his team advance on the winners’ side of the tournament.
“It’s playoff time, so I’m not trying to think about it as much. I need to try to do what I can to get the team a win,” Miles said. “But being so close, it is kind of hard not thinking about it.
“It would mean a lot to get it. I didn’t get to play a lot of the season my sophomore year and then we didn’t get a lot of games this year. I think (getting to 1,000 points) would mean I’ve proved myself, I’ve worked hard and I’ve been ready to play on the court.”
Miles has generated interest from a handful of Division III schools in the area, including Stockton, where his older brother is currently a starting guard as a junior.
McCracken said he has no worries about what kind of mindset Miles will bring to Monday’s game.
“He’s locked in and ready to play in a playoff game,” McCracken said. “I know he’s going to do whatever it takes to win. We’ve told him not to push it, that the points will come. He’s buying in. He hears what we’re talking about.”
Wildwood is the No. 2 seed in pod A of the tournament. Three victories would give the Warriors the championship in the conference’s first-ever tournament.
“This is a special chance (to have playoffs),” Miles said. “Some teams got shut down (due to quarantines) and a lot of teams don’t have any playoffs to look forward to. We have this chance to play and we have to take advantage of it. We deserve to be here.
“I think we can win it all. It’s going to be hard but I think we have a lot of different players that can score, a lot of different players that can rebound and we can play good defense.”