Lauryn Miller Trying To Make A Name For Herself
Internationally speaking, all 12 members of the 2015 USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team are young and inexperienced. After all, the competition in which they will play, the FIBA Americas U16 Championship, is the youngest age group at which USA Basketball fields national teams. The leaders of these squads often are players who have two years of high school basketball under their belts. Six-foot-2 forward Lauryn Miller (Kirkwood H.S./Kirkwood, Mo.) said she has found that to be true for this year’s team.
“I think it helps with the leadership piece,” Miller said of her two years at Kirkwood High School in Missouri. “A lot of us with that year under our belt of experience, that has helped. So those are kind of the ones that step up and help with the positivity and just directing us through stuff.”
As a sophomore in 2014-15, Miller averaged 17.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.3 steals and 4.0 blocks per game to help Kirkwood to a 23-5 record and a fifth-place finish in the 5A state tournament.
“We got knocked out in the quarterfinals this year, and it was our best year so far,” Miller explained. “Our high school has never gone that far, so we made school history. So, this next year we have to go further, definitely.”
The honors already are piling up for Miller, who was named as a 2015 Missouri Coaches 5A All-State selection and to the 2015 Suburban XII South Division All-Conference first team. After her freshman season, which saw her averaged 19.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game, she earned the title of 2014 Suburban South Conference Newcomer of the Year.
“I think it just shows how my team came together, and whenever I was needed to score, I was there for that,” Miller said of her various awards. “It is nice to have those accolades, but I think, definitely, getting a state title would be more important to me than those.”
With each award, Miller continues to build her reputation, and as the daughter of a local, high school legend, that is something that is important to her. Her father, Alvin Miller, was a lettterwinner in football, basketball and track and field at Kirkwood, and he went on to play football at Notre Dame.
“I kind of want to build my own name, so they can say I am more than just his daughter.
“From the beginning to now, every time we go somewhere, someone is stopping him. They recognize him. They know him from football. They know him from basketball. They know him from Kirkwood. And so it never fails, we meet somebody every day that knows my dad.”
Alvin Miller still holds Kirkwood records in the 100 meter and 200 meter races, and in 2012 the track at the school was renamed the Alvin Miller Track Field. There is another record of his, however, that may soon fall.
“Now there is an ongoing joke, because he has the scoring record at my high school for basketball, and they say at the pace I’m going, I’m supposed to beat him,” Miller explained. “So, every body is messing with him, giving him a hard time for that, saying he is not going to be the biggest Miller any more. So, it’s just fun. But, he’s definitely the most supportive in helping me through it all.”
It was another family member who inspired her at 6 years old to play basketball, albeit unknowingly.
“Me and my sister were always close growing up,” Miller said of her sister Ariel, who is three years older than she is. “My dad let me play on her team, and so I just always played. I didn’t get to score much because I was so much smaller.
“I used to get so frustrated because I couldn’t score, but my dad helped me focus on the defense part, because I was really fast growing up. So that helped.”
Miller learned to love basketball and she has been continuing to develop her game ever since.
“I come from a very competitive household, and basketball, you can’t stop, you can’t be satisfied. There is always the chance to get better at any part of your game. Starting that young, that taught me that, because I had to focus on other parts of the game, because I was so much younger than everyone.”
The same people who push her to be great, her family, are the same people who help her remember to enjoy her time as well.
“There has to be a moment where you remember that it is still just a sport at the end of the day. Regardless of what comes out of it, it is still just a game. I think my family definitely helps with that. Whenever we just go shoot around in the gym, they always keep the fun part, so I don’t get too worked up with the competition piece.”
Miller’s determination to improve her basketball game is not much different than her desire to be the best student she can be.
“My dad graduated from Notre Dame, and my mom is one of the principals at my high school, so academics, that’s always first. No matter what. When I have a project due and I have practice, I have to stay home and do my project. I just have always been raised within I that mentality. Straight As is an expectation. It’s what they expect. Whenever we get B+s , my mom is on us for it.
“I take pride in the academic piece, because regardless, basketball has to end at some point.”
Miller has found a third outlet that has brought her a way to unwind – the viola.
“I have been in orchestra since I was in fourth grade. I’ve been first chair for both years of high school and then all three years in middle school. I like music a lot, and it’s just something different to do besides sports.
“It is definitely just a nice distraction from it all, and recruiting and training, when everything gets really built up. That is just a nice escape.”
In the three weeks since Miller competed alongside 149 other hopefuls for the 2015 USA Women’s U16 National Team and was selected as one of 12 players to represent the USA at the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship from June 24-28 in Puebla, Mexico, she said she already has seen improvements in her game.
“My game has already changed, even just from trials,” Miller said. “It was just playing those girls; I brought a different element back home.
“It was a good comparison to make. Forcing yourself not to play to the competition that you have back home, because it is obviously much bigger once you come out here. So, I kind of just took how I played at trials back home. It just made me look like a better player.”
After seven days of training camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Miller and her teammates will depart for Mexico on June 21, where they will look to capture the USA’s fourth-straight U16 gold medal.
“I’m still in awe from it all, and it’s just always going to be a huge honor regardless of the outcome,” Miller said of her USA Basketball experience. “It’s just an honor to even be here.