BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Brandon Miller sat in a folding chair in a corner of the locker room facing an assemblage of reporters and video cameras.
Alabama's freshman All-American fielded few questions about his worst game in crimson and white, not with all the off-the-court matters that have shadowed him and a team mounting a bid for the program's first national championship.
Amid myriad distractions, the NCAA Tournament's top overall seed dispatched 16th-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 96-75 on Thursday in the opening round even with its best player going scoreless for the first time.
Miller, who politely but succinctly responded to questions about anything not related to the game, has been accompanied by a security guard provided by the university after facing threats since his presence at the scene of a fatal shooting was disclosed in court testimony.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Miller said of the threats, which he forwards to university officials. “I send it to the right people and they handle it.”
Miller came into the game averaging nearly 20 points.
The story is well known by many college basketball fans by now. Miller and fellow freshman Jaden Bradley were on the scene in the early-morning hours of Jan. 15 when a 23-year-old woman, Jamea Harris, was shot and killed. The players' then-teammate Darius Miles was charged with capital murder along with another man.
According to police testimony, Miller had brought Miles’s gun to the scene. Miller’s attorney said the Tide forward was on his way to pick Miles up when Miles texted asking him to bring the weapon. The attorney, Jim Standridge, said Miller never handled the gun and didn’t know any criminal activity was intended.
Miller, coach Nate Oats and the Alabama program have faced a steady barrage of questions since then.
The night before Thursday's game, a report published by The New York Times, citing an unidentified person, said a fourth player — freshman walk-on Kai Spears, who hasn’t played this season — was also at the scene of the shooting. The university, Spears and his family have called the report inaccurate and the family has hired an attorney.
A New York Times spokeswoman told The Associated Press the newspaper stands by its reporting. Police in Tuscaloosa did not return an email sent Thursday by The AP seeking comment on the report.
Miller and Bradley have not missed any playing time, a decision that has brought plenty of scrutiny on Oats and the Crimson Tide.
Oats disclosed Wednesday that Miller had received threatening messages.
“If you guys saw some of what I’ve seen sent his way, I think you would understand why that’s the case,” Oats said, referring to the security guard provided to Miller. “I don’t want to get into all that. The entire situation, as you know, is just a heartbreaking situation on all accounts.”
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