SOUTH LEBANON – Talk to them, and one becomes keenly aware of the fact that Soren Frost and Nick Miller know they’re part of something special. But for Miller and Frost, the 2014-15 Cedar Crest boys’ basketball season may have had a little extra meaning.
For the athletic and versatile 6-1 forwards, it’s afforded them an opportunity to represent themselves, represent their teammates, represent their fellow students and perhaps most importantly, represent their school.
Frost and Miller are soccer players playing basketball. Good ones. But for the fast friends, basketball has allowed them to do something that their first sport couldn’t – compete athletically for Cedar
Crest High School.
Certainly key components of the Falcon boys’ success on the basketball floor this winter, Miller and Frost did not compete for Cedar Crest boys’ soccer team in any of the previous three fall seasons. Though their involvement with Pennsylvania Classics – the developmental equivalent of AAU basketball or traveling baseball – both Frost and Miller secured Division One grants-in-aid, but were not permitted to compete for Cedar Crest High School.
“It means a lot to me,” said Miller, who will ply his soccer skills for New Hampshire. “I’ve been in the school district since I was in kindergarten. It’s fun playing in front of friends, parents and the community, and trying to represent them.
“It definitely makes it more important,” Miller continued. “It definitely was a bummer not being able to play school soccer. We heard rumors we might not be able to play basketball. But our (PA Classics) coach was really lenient for us. My thing was, if I wasn’t going to play basketball, I would’ve quit the academy.”
“It’s really important, being able to represent the school, the student body and what we stand for,” said Frost, whose full ride will take him to Delaware. “It’s kind of a ‘work hard’ attitude that we represent.
“I think a big part of high school sports is representing the school,” continued Frost. “Since I wasn’t able to do it for the soccer team, I wanted to do it for the basketball team. Plus, a lot of my best friends play basketball.”
As the runners-up from District Three, Frost, Miller and the rest of the 26-3 Falcons will take on 17-10 Lower Merion, the sixth-place finisher out of District One, on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Lebanon High School, in the opening round of the PIAA tournament.
“A lot of what I do is because I’m proud of my school, and that’s one of the things I want the kids to take away from me,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith, himself a former Falcon. “The one thing with Soren and Nick, to represent their school and represent their friends, it’s important to them. It means a lot for them to compete together, to wear ‘Falcons’ across their chests, and to be a part of maybe the best basketball team in Cedar Crest history.”
“I try to do my job,” said Miller, a tenacious, slashing interior player and under-rated shooter. “Play good defense. Make open shots. I don’t really create my own shots, so I try to get in good spots for my teammates to find me.
“It’s obviously been a great year,” added Miller. “We accomplished a lot of our goals. The district championship game (a 56-53 loss to York) was a bummer, but we battled and did the best we can. There’s not many people who can say they’ve gone 26-3.”
“I see myself as energy coming off the bench,” said Frost, a tireless defender who also possesses a knack for finishing around the rim. “I try to defend the other teams’ best players. I just try to do my best and get hustle points where I can.
“The season is going great,” Frost added. “We met a lot of our expectations. The district championship was definitely a downer, but we’ve still had a lot of positives.”
While probably more different than the same, basketball and soccer are alike in that each feature goals on each ends of their fields of play, they are both fast-paced with a ton of action and they require certain amounts of collaboration with teammates. But perhaps the aspect that has allowed Frost and Miller to excel in both is their, strong, quick and fast feet.
“The team work, the team aspect is similar,” said Frost. “It takes a whole effort to win games. Since we started playing at a young age, soccer has helped our foot speed, helped our defending and helped our first step on offense.”
“They’re really similar,” said Miller. “The team aspects. The movement of the feet is basically the same. Using my feet has definitely helped me in basketball, guarding and moving around the basket. The two sports are similar in communication, defense and movement of the ball.”
“I call it ‘The Nick Miller’ role,” said Smith. “He does what he’s supposed to do. There’s not much I need to coach him on because he knows it. I think he’s an under-rated athlete. He rebounds. He defends. He scores when we need him to. He’s a very quiet leader. He goes under the radar because he’s not flashy. He’s a fantastic kid, a fantastic basketball player and a fantastic athlete.
“Soren’s role is, first and foremost, as a defender,” Smith continued. “And I think he embraces that opportunity. He’ll defend the other team’s best player. From the time Soren entered our program we encouraged him to be more aggressive on offense. I think he is the best athlete in the school, but again under-rated. He really means a lot to this team.”
The goal of programs like Pennsylvania Classics is to develop athletes in more of a training and instructional environment, and to showcase those honed athletes in front of college coaches, scouts and recruiters. Certainly in that vein, Pennsylvania Classics certainly served Miller and Frost well.
“I used to play (off-season) soccer at Red Land, but it was pretty far away,” said Miller. “We heard about Classics, and it was 20 minutes away. We made it and stayed with it. We weren’t thinking about the consequences at that point, because it wasn’t real at that point.
“I didn’t think I was going to be good enough to play soccer in college,” Miller continued. “But then in the middle of my junior year I started getting emails from college. It was like, ‘Wow, I can play college soccer’. I don’t regret it at all. I got a scholarship. I’m going to play Division One soccer. I do wish I could’ve played school ball. That’s the only thing I wish.”
“At the developmental academy league you have to sign something that says you have to dedicate your time to that team,” said Frost, who hooked up with the program at the age of 13. “It was kind of a bummer at first, growing up and always wanting to represent the school. But it was better for my development, it was better for my college opportunities. But it was definitely a bummer not being able to represent Cedar Crest.
“I don’t have any regrets,” continued Frost. “I would’ve done everything the same.”
“I don’t know much about soccer,” said Smith. “But I do know about the feet that the two of them possess. Soren moves his feet so well on defense and Nick Miller’s feet in the post are just phenomenal. I don’t know if I attribute 100 percent of that to soccer, but at least part of it is because of it. Those two might have the best feet of anyone I’ve ever coached.
“They’re fantastic kids, both of them,” added Smith. “Both are in the top ten percent of their class. You never hear a negative word about them, and that speaks volumes about their character. I’m just thankful for the opportunity to coach them.”
For the past number of seasons, the Cedar Crest boys’ soccer program has struggled to revisit some of its past glories. Certainly having Frost and Miller in the fold would’ve helped.
“We went to a couple of games this fall,” said Miller. “We have a couple of friends on the team. It was good to see that they definitely got a lot better since we played as freshmen.
“People probably don’t think much of the program,” Miller continued. “They’re definitely up and coming, but I don’t know about the kids they have coming up. Coach (Dustin) Bixler is a good coach. But I think the biggest thing in the development of the program is kids playing travel soccer at a young age.”
“They’ve made a ton of improvements over the last few years,” said Frost of the Falcons. “When we were freshmen we had Coach Bixler, and he was a really good coach. I think this (2014) was one of our best years in a while.
“This year, we got to two games,” continued Frost. “I wanted to see how they were doing. They were having a good year and I wanted to check it out.”
“What I know about AAU in general is that if you get hooked up with the right thing, it can be very helpful,” said Smith. “I’m sure our high school team could’ve used them. But at the end of the day, we’re in it for the kids. If it was the best move for them, I’m for it. If it is, I’m not sure how I couldn’t support it.”