Sisters First, Opponents Second for Miller Twins
Kelly and Coco Miller have been squeaking their sneaks on the basketball court since they were three years old. The identical twins from Rochester, Minnesota, led their Mayo High School team to a 27-0 record and the Minnesota 4A championship as seniors. They both attended the University of Georgia where they engraved their names in the basketball record books and together received the 1999 James E. Sullivan award as the nation's top amateur athletes. Kelly (2nd overall, by the Charlotte Sting) and Coco (9th, by the Washington Mystics) were selected in the first round of the 2001 WNBA Draft, and over the past six years they have continued to excel at the professional level. Many have seen the chemistry and excellence of the Miller twins on the court, but it is their relationship off the court that has mightily contributed to their success in the game.
Early on, Kelly and Coco discovered they shared a passion for basketball. While most have memories of siblings pulling hair and stealing toys, Kelly recalls a different atmosphere. "We always played together. It was great having someone to practice with and to have someone to go one-on-one with. We pushed each other and always enjoyed playing together growing up."
Their closeness allowed one to often feed off the other's work ethic, helping them both to grow into better players. On the same squad in high school, they made their coach the victim of a sibling swap when the twins switched jerseys. The coach at Mayo may not have been able to decipher which Miller was which, but it was clear to him and many others that both were phenomenal on the court.
The University of Georgia was both Kelly and Coco's top college choice, and it was at Georgia that they began to distinguish themselves as individual players, as Kelly took on the role of point guard and Coco played the two. However it was not until the WNBA that they really felt as though they were able to grow and come into their own. "Coming into the league, we really were able to expand our games," Coco explains.
When they entered the pro ranks in 2001, adjusting to the level of basketball was easy, but playing without each other took some getting used to. In fact, Coco doesn't remember how she played or if she won the first time they faced off, but she does remember how she felt. "It was very strange," she says. "It did not feel like a real game, it felt like we were practicing against each other."
Long talks on the phone have helped to compensate for the distance the WNBA has put between them. Despite Coco playing on the East Coast, Kelly says from Phoenix that, "If I have a bad game, I will call her and she is always there to support me." The bond between the sisters has pushed them through poor shooting performances and rough losses.
Both players bring good work ethics, and while they may believe it is a coincidence that each has received the WNBA's Most Improved Player Award, Kelly in 2004 and Coco in 2002, certainly the support and motivation they have continued to provide each other has been invaluable. "We talk together after every game. We talk about the game and it always helps to have someone to support you," Kelly explains.
This past offseason, the twins felt a twinge of deja vu as they teamed up for the first time in several years to play for Montpelier in the French league. They both love playing and being together, but it is doubtful that their opponents feel the same way. Playing in the same uniform as her sister makes basketball more fun for Kelly. As for Coco, when asked what basketball would have been like without her sister, she describes it in one word: "Unimaginable."