Earrings, sweat pants, a torn shirt, Nike sleepers and nearly 30 minutes out of practicing for the Southwestern Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament in Garland, Texas, the Women’s Basketball Team leading scorer is seen quite differently once off the hardwood.
Calm, yet energetic with a bright smile that is drowned in humility; one would question the ability of SWAC scoring leader Joanna Miller, until you’ve watched her play.
Playing 32 minutes a game, Miller averaged 17 points, five rebounds and shot 72 percent from the free throw line in 32 games as the Lady Tiger’s starting guard, who admits her game can use some help defensively, physically and on turnovers.
However, her season stats, she says resembles her style of play.
“I’m an emotional player,” said Miller, a 3-time recipient of SWAC player of the week, an honor that she says she’ll replace for a victory.
As an emotionally charged player, the Los Angeles native and 21-year-old says that her tenacity is fed from her teammates.
“If I’m not playing good, then someone else is, which will trigger me to turn it up. We all feed off each other’s energy,” said the junior criminal justice major.
Not only does she accredit her teammates and coaches for her success, but Miller’s parents have been the vessel and inspiration that has drove her as player.
“I look up to them because they go through so much, and through everything that have supported me in whatever I did, and they still do. I see them as my heroes.” said a Miller, who has six brothers and sisters. “I feel like I owe them a lot.”
Her mother, a cancer survivor, a disease that has returned and recently claimed the life of her aunt, an occasion that her teammates rallied around her; Miller calls her teammates a “sisterhood.”
A former athlete and basketball player himself, Miller’s father has served as her biggest critic, biggest fan and sometimes her coach. “Everything I know I learned from that guy,” said Miller.
Attending her first collegiate game in over two years, Miller’s father witnessed the lost against Mississippi Valley State University, where she racked in 12 points.
But Miller’s journey is far more different than most. Playing for two other Division I schools, University of California Irvine and North Carolina Central, where she averaged 19 points as a freshmen.
Out of basketball for a year, and working at a fast food restaurant, Miller and her father, a Tallulah, La native reached out to Pat Bibbs for another opportunity on the hardwood.
“I had not played at all. I didn’t do pickup-nothing. My dad told me you need to go somewhere, where you don’t have any distractions and you can start over,” said Miller.
She says Bibbs was pleased to hear from her, and was the last student athlete offered a scholarship for the next two seasons.
Miller’s thirst for basketball came at an early age. From traveling basketball to playing for her high school varsity basketball team when she was in junior high, Miller has as used her thirst and knowledge of the game to serve others. At 6-years-old, Miller would accompany her father to the Young Men’s Christian Association, where she has coached kids every summer since the eighth grade.
Years past her adolescent years, Miller says she plans on playing in the WNBA or overseas for a game she says rescued her.
“Basketball means everything to me. I need basketball. Basketball takes me to another place,” said a smiling Miller.