In 2011, high school junior Miles Herman and his family returned to their hometown of Ithaca after spending the previous eight years living in Japan. Their abrupt return to the United States came after a 9.1 magnitude earthquake devastated Japan and caused many to flee the country out of fear of radiation leaks from nearby power plants.
After finishing high school in Ithaca and transferring colleges twice, Herman is now an integral member of the Ithaca College men’s basketball team.
“We came back thinking it would only be a year and that we would go back to Japan once everything had settled down, and that never happened,” Herman said.
Herman went to Japan with his family due to his mother’s job at the Corning Glass Company. He said he was surprised by the basketball culture he discovered there.
“I went over there not knowing if people would even play, and when I got to my school, I found out they had a team and they were pretty good,” Herman said. “I made all of my first friends over there through basketball and playing on the team. The competition was as good as it was when I got back here; the kids were really into it.”
Beyond basketball, Herman said his time in Japan greatly contributed to his personal growth and gave him “a better sense of self.”
“I learned more about who I am and where I fit in,” he said.
Herman said basketball was an escape for him during a difficult transition back to Ithaca from Japan for his junior year of high school.
“It was definitely hard initially making friends, hard initially adjusting to a new school and a new setting and new people, and my parents weren’t living together at the time,” Herman said. “I found that basketball was really cathartic for me. I had a team to come back to who were all super welcoming and kind of introduced me to the school.”
After graduating from Ithaca High School in 2013, Herman enrolled at the University at Buffalo, where he played on the club basketball team for two years. He decided he wanted to be close to home, so he transferred to Tompkins-Cortland Community College before transferring to the college.
“I wanted to be close to a strong support network, and having my mom, dad and grandma around helped with that,” Herman said.
Early in the 2017 fall semester, prior to basketball tryouts, Herman was playing basketball at the college’s Fitness Center, and a professor, who played on Cornell University’s men’s basketball team when he was a student, told him to try out for the Bombers. Herman went to the Hill Center at Ithaca College before a team workout and played a pickup game with the team. After that game, a few of the players, including Carroll Rich senior guard and captain, walked into head coach Jim Mullins’ office and told him about Herman.
“I immediately saw where he could fit in because of our offense and how he could be a big help on defense with his length and size in the paint,” Rich said. “With our offense, the big man’s job is to run the floor well. He’s not really one of these doughy bigs that you see sometimes. He’s pretty athletic, gets up and down the floor really well, so I always found that something to take note of right away.”
The addition of Herman as a post presence has positively impacted the Bombers on both offense and defense. Last year, the Bombers gave up 184 points in the paint through the Bombers’ first five games of the season, while this year, they have only given up 132 points in the paint. Herman also makes a big impact on the offensive end, with the Bombers’ scoring 192 points in the paint through five games compared to last year’s 162 points in
Herman is the tallest player on the team at 6’8”, and he is also the tallest player the Bombers have had on the team since the 2014–15 season when 6’8” center Keefe Gitto was a senior. He is also the first player during Mullins’ stint as head coach to come from Ithaca High School.
Herman has found success early in his Ithaca career, getting a double-double in only his third career game, with 13 points and 11 rebounds against SUNY Cortland on Nov. 28. He came a rebound short of a double-double in the Bombers’ very next game with 14 points and nine rebounds against Vassar College on Dec. 1.
One of Herman’s biggest contributions to the Bombers so far has been his ability on the glass, averaging 6.6 rebounds per game, including 11 in the team’s 86–84 win against SUNY Cortland. He also put up 13 points against the Red Dragons for his second double-double of the season.
Mullins said Herman has a knack for rebounding.
“I think the big thing with being a great rebounder is that I think it is as much or more attitude than it is physical ability,” Mullins said. “Not to imply that he is not physically capable, ‘cause he certainly is, but Miles’ big thing is he’s got a nose for the ball and a desire to get it.”
While Herman’s impact has been consistent in his short stint with the Bombers, his high school coach Jobe Zulu told USA Today in 2012 that consistency was Herman’s biggest problem.
“When he plays to his ability when he focuses and knows what he’s doing out there, on a scale of 0–10, this kid is a 9,” Zulu said. “But when he’s joking around and not focused, he goes to being a 2, so you never quite know what you’re going to get out of him.”
Herman said his attitude has completely changed from when he was in high school.
“Focus is not still an issue, thankfully,” Herman said. “I’d like to think I’m a lot more mature right now than I was back then. Jobe was right; I definitely did not play to my abilities all the time. I was distracted and had a lot of things outside of basketball, I would say, dividing my attention. Now, it’s just none of that; it’s just school and basketball.”
Mullins said Herman has put in as much effort as anyone else on the team.
“I think he’s been one of our hardest workers,” Mullins said. “He’s been all in for us, you know — he spends extra time in the gym working on his game, and he’s been great in practice: very attentive and always ready to go.”