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Bison are ready for Miles' return

FARGO -- It's been nearly nine months since Tim Miles told his North Dakota State men's basketball players that he was leaving for the head coaching job at Colorado State.

FARGO -- It's been nearly nine months since Tim Miles told his North Dakota State men's basketball players that he was leaving for the head coaching job at Colorado State.

Mike Nelson vividly remembers that late Wednesday night meeting last March. After the shock and disappointment of the announcement started to settle in, Miles reminded his players he would be coaching against them the next season.

"At the time, we all forgot about the Colorado State game," Nelson said. "When he told us, we all looked up with these wide eyes and thought 'Whoa, that's kind of strange.'"

Even stranger is the fact that Miles helped negotiate the two-for-one contract with Colorado State while he was at NDSU - about the same time Nelson and NDSU's three other junior starters were redshirt freshmen.

Ironically, Dale Layer - the coach whom Miles replaced - initially advised Miles to avoid scheduling two-for-one deals. But Layer ignored his own advise and scheduled two home games with the Bison and today's game in Fargo.

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For a $35,000 buyout, Miles could have canceled Saturday's game.

"You know, he didn't have to play this game," said Saul Phillips, the assistant who replaced Miles as NDSU's head coach.

"But Tim didn't even consider dropping the game. He's doing us a terrific favor."

For NDSU, it will be a chance to showcase its talented junior class that Miles recruited in front of a regional television audience. And even though most of the NDSU students will be gone for the holiday break, Bison officials are hoping for a crowd of more than 4,000.

"Hopefully, it will be a packed house," Nelson said. "We've circled this one on our schedule. We will definitely be amped up."

Nelson and fellow juniors Brett Winkelman, Ben Woodside and Lucas Moorman will tell you that Miles is the big reason they came to NDSU.

They helped Miles taste success during NDSU's transition from NCAA Division II to Division I. During Miles' last two years at NDSU, the Bison produced 16-12 and 20-8 seasons.

Miles had a 99-71 record during his six seasons at NDSU.

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"He's a great recruiter and a great communicator," Woodside said. "He would do anything for his players. And he knows how to win."

Colorado State beat the Bison 79-62 in 2005 and 82-80 last year.

Only 7-foot seniors Stuart Creason and Ronnie Aguilar are back from last year's 17-13 team. Miles' young and inexperienced squad has a 5-4 record - including a championship at the Top of the World Classic in Alaska.

"You don't win three games in three days in Alaska without talent," Phillips said. "Tim gets his kids playing to the best of their abilities."

So what will it be like seeing Miles pace the sidelines on the other side of court?

"I may not know which coach to look up to when I hear them yelling," Winkelman said jokingly.

"It's just another game but it's going to be different," Woodside said.

"It will be a little odd looking over there and seeing him," Phillips said. "Tim is a good friend ... but I don't want to lose to him. Afterwards, we can cheer for him to win the rest of his games."

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The Forum and The Dickinson Press are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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