By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
The best part of a West Virginia University basketball game isn’t really part of West Virginia basketball at all.
Oh, you can enjoy a no-look dish by point guard Juwan Staten or a frenzied drive to the basket by Gary Browne. Deniz Kilicli and his left-handed sky hook is a crowd favorite, and whether Aaric Murray is going high to block a shot or elevating for a rim-shaking slam dunk, it brings on ooohs and aaahs.
But it is going to quickly get so that fans are going to sneak off to get their popcorn and sodas just before halftime so they can be back in their seats not only to watch the youngsters race the length of the court in an effort — often hilarious, always exciting — to win $100 in the layup contest but to also watch the new video “Meetin’ with Keaton.”
A year ago, the fan favorite was learning to do the Dougie with John Flowers, a video that caught on and had a huge following.
This year’s “Meetin’ with Keaton” is about 2 1/2 minutes, a no-holds-barred video of the sophomore forward hosting teammates, fans, the Mountaineer mascot ... whoever it takes to bring a little bit of insight and levity into the dead halftime minutes.
“They approached me over the summer,” the personable Miles, who hails out of Dallas and is growing into a potential star player, explained after having collected a career-high 11 points on 3-for-4 shooting with 5-of-5 from the free throw line, three rebounds, two assists, two blocks and four steals against VMI on Wednesday night.
Chris Ostien (of MSN) said, “We need something for you to do that can include the team and entertain the people.”
The idea was to personalize the players and the staff, to bring them out as they really are.
“I can interview some guys,” Miles suggested to Ostein. “We have some characters on this team.”
Think about that for a minute. You want to put together a situation comedy, think you could find any subject better than a guitar-playing basketball star out of Turkey like Deniz Kilicli, or the fluid Puerto Rican Gary Browne or a basketball coach like Bob Huggins?
“What can we call it?” Ostien asked Miles, who thought for a moment, then had this momentary brainstorm after which he replied, “Meetin’ with Keaton.”
And so it was born.
The first one had him meetin’ with teammates, getting Gary Browne to do a little salsa dancing, trying to get Aaron Brown to sing, having Gary Browne tell him that if he would be stranded on a desert island he would bring with him “a basketball, my family and an endless supply of money,” even if there was nowhere to spend it.
Then this week, the show was dedicated to interviewing youngsters, first grade or preschool.
“If you remember Bill Cosby doing the ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things,’” Miles said, “well, that’s where Chris got the idea from. We’re looking for any other ideas, so let us know.”
Examples of the show with the youngsters?
Keaton: If you could change into any animal, what would you be?
Answer: A snake.
Answer: Because they have smelly breath.
Or he held up a picture of Tony Caridi’s play-by-play partner Jay Jacobs and asked if they recognized him.
The answers came “no,” “no,” “no,” and “Jay Jacobs. Next question.”
Miles handled it all well enough that you might have thought he was majoring in radio and TV, but no, he’s a business management major, although these segments have gone over so well he is thinking of minoring in it.
“I have a lot of fun with it,” he said. “It’s something to do off the court. With us trying to get wins and wins and wins, we have to show a different side to our character.”
It isn’t particularly easy to do or to fit in. The shows to date have taken about an hour to get 2 1/2 minutes of tape as they want them, and considering that there are 20 hours of practice a week, plus studying, classes, travel, it isn’t an easy way to handle it.
It doesn’t come naturally, either.
“I had a little fear in me when I was younger. As far as doing presentations at school, I would get a little jittery at the beginning, but now I say it’s just a camera,” Miles said.
Miles is looking forward to what comes next. It’s a long season, and it gives them all a place to show themselves as real people, not just as basketball players.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.