There’s No Place Like Home
There's no place like home, there's no place like home… Of course you remember those famous words from one Dorothy Gale in the 1939 classic The Wizard of OZ. After staring with sister Coco for the Rochester Mayo Spartans from 1993-97, Rochester, Minn native Kelly Miller finally returns to her roots after the Lynx acquired the eight-year veteran, along with LaToya Pringle for Nicole Ohlde last Friday.
Kelly and twin-Coco's Minnesota State High School legacy began in 1993 when they burst on to the high school scene as eight graders. Two State Titles and a co-Miss. Basketball Award later, the Miller twins were the darlings of Rochester and the high school hardwood. The two of them went on to have storied collegiate careers as Georgia Bulldogs, setting numerous school records along the way. After 15+ years together on the same team, the duo finally split, as the Charlotte Sting made Kelly the number two overall pick in the 2001 WNBA Draft, and Coco went to the Washington Mystics.
Eight years later, Kelly has enjoyed a successful WNBA career with three different teams, making the playoffs in five of eight seasons, including capturing a WNBA Championship with Phoenix in 2007. In 19 career playoff appearances, including 13 starts, Miller holds averages of 8.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists. With the trade, Miller now becomes Minnesota's leader in playoff appearances and the Lynx brass hope that postseason experience will rub-off on a young team hungry for its first playoff game since 2004.
In 255 career games, including 160 starts, the 5-foot-10 guard holds averages of 8.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 24.5 mpg. Miller, co-winner of the 2004 WNBA Most Improved Player Award, enjoyed her best season statistically in 2007 when she averaged 9.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 4.6 assists in 34 games, all starts. Miller also shot a career-high 47.9 percent from the floor and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc in 2007.
For her career, Miller has connected on 38.8 percent (213-of-548) of her three-point attempts, good for eighth all-time among players with 100-or-more made three-point field goals. Miller's expertise from beyond the arc will undoubtedly help boost a Lynx team that finished 2008 11th in three-point field-goal percentage (32.2%) and 13th in made three-pointer per game (3.91).
Via a conference call from Moscow, Kelly met yesterday with assembled members of the media to discuss the trade. Miller talks about coming home, reminisces on her storied Minnesota high school career and expresses her thoughts on how good she thinks her new team can be…
Question: Tell us your initial reactions when you first heard that you were coming home…
Kelly Miller: Initially I was a little surprised, but at the same time I was really excited to be coming back home and playing for Minnesota. Minnesota is such a great basketball state. I have so many great memories growing up in Rochester and playing at Rochester Mayo. I'm really excited to be given the opportunity.
Q: Did you think you were going to be moved by the Mercury to Minnesota?
KM: It never really crossed my mind. It's always been in mind to come back and play in Minnesota. I'm really looking forward to it.
Q: Don't you and Coco own a home in Phoenix?
KM: Yeah we do. We bought that several years ago. We spend our off-seasons there.
Q: Will you commute from Rochester then?
KM: (Laughs) No I think I'll stay in Minneapolis, a little closer to the Target Center.
Q: How do you see your role on this club and how do you think you'll help this team?
KM: There are so many talented players on this team. I'm looking forward to coming in and playing with them, and helping them out in any way I can. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get this team to playoffs, or at least be in contention.
Q: As you mentioned, it is a young club. Do you think you'll be called on for some veteran leadership?
KM: I think so. I would expect that, yes. We have a young team here, and I've been to the playoffs before. I hope my work ethic will translate to some leadership on the court. Playing with Seimone Augustus and all the other great players Minnesota has is going to be a lot of fun and a good experience.
Q: Would you like to see Coco come to Minnesota as well? Do you think that's possible? Has there been any talk about that happening?
KM: It's always been a dream of ours to play together in the WNBA. That's something that I would want to see happen. Is it possible?? I don't know, we'll have to see.
Q: How do you feel about being one of the marquee, go-to players on the Lynx?
KM: I haven't really had much time to think about that yet, but I'm looking forward to coming and in and doing anything I can to help this team win.
Q: Do you think leading a young team is a challenge that you will relish?
KM: Yeah. There's so much youthful talent on this team and naturally, young players bring a lot of excitement and energy to the floor. I'm looking forward to playing with them. It's a challenge that I'm looking forward to.
Q: What was Coco's reaction to the trade? I imagine it was similar to yours… was she happy for you?
KM: Yeah she's extremely happy for me to go back there. She's been nothing but supportive.
Q: How bout your parents?
KM: As expected, they're really excited. They'll be able to go to all the games and they're really looking forward to all of that.
Q: Do your parents still live in Rochester?
KM: Yes they do.
Q: Throughout the years, how have you seen the women's game grow in the state of Minnesota, all the way down from the youth levels up to the WNBA?
KM: The fan support in Minnesota is great. I have so many great memories of the State Tournaments. Fans in Minnesota really support their basketball and really enjoy it. It will be fun to be a part of that excitement again.
Q: Minnesota fans have really been hungry for a homegrown player to play on this Lynx club. Did you think it'd be you? And is there pressure that comes with trying to fulfill that role?
KM: It's exciting to come back to Minnesota and play. I'm really looking forward to that. I haven't really thought about the pressure aspect, but it's a challenge that I'll really take to and thrive off of. I'm looking forward to coming back to Minnesota. It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it.
Q: When is the last time Coco and yourself were able to play together?
KM: A couple years ago we played together in France. That was the most recent time.
Q: Where are you playing right now?
KM: I'm playing in Moscow.
Q: All long how will you be in Moscow?
KM: I got here in October and I will be here 'till the end of April. Our season ends in April.
Q: What do you think of all the young talent the Lynx have and do you think you'll be able to provide some leadership to the club?
KM: Minnesota has a lot of young and talented players. I'm looking forward to playing with all of them. I'm going to come in and help us win in any way we can. Hopefully my actions on the court will speak to my leadership abilities. I'm looking forward to the challenge and playing in Minnesota again.
Q: Describe your leadership qualities, Kelly… Are you a rah-rah type of person or are you quiet, lead by example type of player?
KM: I'm probably a little more of the quiet, lead by example type. I'll do whatever it takes to lead this club.
Q: What was winning a WNBA Championship like and how did you grow as a player from that?
KM: Winning a Championship with Phoenix was an amazing experience and a dream come true. I think that experience of going that far into the playoffs and eventually winning the Championship has really helped me grow as a player. I've taken a lot from it and it's helped a lot with my confidence. I now know the hard work that it takes to get there. The Finals experience definitely helped me improve as a basketball player.
Q: As Lynx management been in touch with you regarding your on-court role?
KM: Coach called me a couple of days ago. It was a brief exchange of words. He said he's going to call me again. We haven't talked about that yet, but I'm looking forward to hearing what they expect out of me.
Q: You're in Moscow and you're coming back when?
KM: End of April.
Q: Is Coco also playing in that league, and what is that league?
KM: She's playing on a different team here in Moscow. In the Russian League there are probably 10-12 teams. We're also in the EuroLeague and travel around to play teams from different countries.
Q: Have you completed all the schooling that you intend to and have you thought about your career after basketball? How long do you think you'll continue to play?
KM: Coco and received our Bachelor's Degree from the University of Georgia. Right now we haven't really thought about life after basketball. Hopefully I can continue to play as long as possible. I feel good right now, so I feel I can keep playing for a while longer.
Q: What is your contract situation with the Lynx?
KM: I'm on the last year of my deal.
Q: What would it be like for you if the Lynx brought in Coco?
KM: We're certainly hoping that it happens. It's always been a dream of ours to play together in the WNBA. I guess we'll wait and see.
Q: How big of a jump do you think this team can make? What did you think of the Lynx when you were playing in Phoenix? Do you think this is a team that can make the playoffs? How good of a team do you think this team can be this year?
KM: I definitely think we can make the playoffs. Every time we played Minnesota, I could see how talented they were. We're definitely a playoff-caliber team. We have all the pieces.
Q: When was the last time you were in Rochester?
KM: Coco and I went back in the fall of 2007, following the season for about a week.
Q: Maybe we'll see more of you around here in the next couple of years?
KM: Yeah, you probably will.
Q: Have the Lynx talked with you about making community appearances and Rochester to drum up some interest in Lynx basketball?
KM: Not yet, but that's definitely something that I'm interested in doing. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to drive interest in Lynx basketball.
Q: What do you think about Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins? What are your impressions of them? They seem to be the emerging leaders on this club.
KM: They're both tremendous players. They've always been difficult to play against during my team in Phoenix. They're always very fun to watch. I'm really looking forward to playing with them now.