Miller's Raven career is a matter of records

Tue, 2012-07-24 10:35 -- univcomm
The Anderson University women's basketball team's 19-6 record and No. 1 seed in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament may mean more to Rachel Miller than any other Raven player. The senior, a graduate of Anderson's Highland High School, has been through a lot of ups and downs during her four seasons at AU. She's endured two knee surgeries, months of rehabilitation and three seasons filled with the frustration of fewer than 10 wins each. But that was then. And this is now.

In her final season as a Lady Raven, Miller's career is finally on the upswing. Her team's playing its best basketball in four years and she just became AU's career scoring leader. The frustration of the last three seasons is gone, and in its place is a sense of relief -- unless the Ravens find themselves in an all-too-familiar position.

"I'm not a big fan of losing," Miller said. "Now if we're losing in a game, I can't stand that feeling because that's the feeling I had last year all the time."

Those feelings haven't reared their ugly head too many times this season. AU's 19 wins broke a school record, and the Ravens have rolled through the conference on their way to the top seed. Coach Marcie Taylor says Miller's been a big part of Anderson's success.

"Teams have to key on her and double-team her, and that helps to open up Monica (Sands), our other post player," Taylor said. "It helps to open up Angel (Hall). It just allows us to do a lot of things because they have to place so much attention on Rachel."

Despite the attention she draws from other teams, Miller has always found a way to score and crash the boards. She's averaging 17 points a game this year, 13.9 over her career. She ranks first in career rebounds with 814. Breaking the career scoring and rebounding records were a surprise to Miller, but not to her coach.

"We've always known Rachel had this kind of potential," Taylor said. "I'm real happy for her. It's been a real honor to have coached her for four years and seen how much she's grown over those four years."

Miller has perfected the physical fundamentals of the game, and more importantly overcome the mental challenges of competing at a collegiate level. She struggled during her freshman and sophomores years, taking herself out of games when she made a mistake. This year Miller's accepted the fact that no one is perfect.

"I've been told my whole life that I was my own worst enemy," Miller said. "I just didn't want it to get the best of me anymore. It still does, but I just don't show it."

The senior feels that after all these years she's finally gotten a grasp on the game of basketball. She's a little older, a little wiser and hopefully a little more mature. That gives Miller a great sense of responsibility for her young teammates.

"I'm a senior. I have the most experience," Miller said. "Not only just in scoring, or rebounding, but in leadership. When I was a freshman I didn't understand when coach would tell me about the little things. Now I know that works, and now I have to help the freshmen do that."

Miller's experience combined with her team's new found intensity and desire earned the Ravens the bye in the HCAC tournament. AU, which hosts the tournament this year, will face the winner of the Hanover/Mount St. Joseph's game. Home court advantage should help Anderson in its quest for a berth into the NCAA Division III tournament.

"We've played pretty well here all year," coach Taylor said. "We've defended home court pretty well. I think we've only lost two games."

AU's men's team isn't so lucky. The Ravens travel to Franklin tonight for their first-round matchup. If Anderson, the No. 5 seed, can upset No. 4 Franklin, it will face No. 1 Hanover on Friday night.

Miller is determined that the Lady Ravens' season won't end in their game on Friday. She's worked far too hard for this chance.

"This is my last shot, and I want to prove what a good team we are," Miller said. "This is it for me, so I want to give it every ounce of everything I have."

-----HEATHER SCHWARTZ is a staff reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.