From the United States to Denmark, former Grambling State University Lady Tiger basketball star Joanna Miller continues to excel professionally overseas in the sport that she loves the most.
During her two-year tenure at GSU, Miller led the team in scoring and averaged 18 points per game during the 2013-14 season.
Miller was born and raised in Los Angeles but life was not always easy growing up in South Central LA.
She spent the majority of her life playing basketball and keeping close to her family. Miller had an opportunity that most children didn’t and don’t have by having her father as a coach since the age of 6.
Basketball is strong in Miller’s genes; her father played at Louisiana State University. After a bad car accident, his career in the U.S. was cut short, and he was forced to leave and play overseas.
Miller strongly believes that staying close to her family and dedicating her life fully to basketball kept her from becoming a victim to the street life in South Central.
“I didn’t have a social life in high school,” Miller said. “I feel if it was not for the gym or for playing sports, I probably would’ve ended up in serious trouble or worse.”
She faced other issues in life, such as being bullied growing up due to her being biracial.
“I got bullied a lot because I am Black and Mexican,” said Miller. “I lived in a Mexican neighborhood so it was kind of tough for me because I had trouble fitting in.”
Miller attended Pacific Hills High School in West Hollywood, Calif., where she played basketball, softball and volleyball, and briefly ran track.
Basketball, according to Miller, was the most promising sport for her.
“I felt comfortable with basketball,” Miller said. “I loved the game and I wanted to go very far with it.”
After her senior year in high school, Miller received offers from Brown University, Long Island University in New York, North Carolina Central University, Eastern Michigan University and many other schools.
“I ended up choosing North Carolina Central because I wanted to be in a basketball state and I felt right by being there.”
Going to NCCU was a big culture shock to Miller because she attended a private high school and, for her, experiencing the life at an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) was very different.
“I loved the energy and intensity of an HBCU, and it was a great and shocking experience,” Miller said.
At this time Miller felt she was at her highest until tragedy struck heavily in her family.
Miller decided to leave NCCU because her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She transferred to the University of California at Irvine to be closer to her mother.
“During this time I had a major mental breakdown, and on top of that, my mother’s health started to become worse,” Miller said.
Miller ended up quitting school, and she began working at a fast food restaurant for a few months.
“This was not the best choice in my life, but I was thankful my mother started to get better and she was once again a cancer survivor.
“But I was stuck frying food,” Miller said.
Light started to enter the dark time in her life when former Grambling head women’s basketball coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs came to Miller’s rescue.
“Coach Bibbs was really close to my father, and she really loved my game and kept up with my career,” Miller said. “I saw it as a blessing to be a part of Grambling.
“Getting cleared to play took a very long time, but with help from coach Jeffery Sims, I became a Lady Tiger.”
Miller took the opportunity and excelled her junior and senior years at Grambling.
In May, Miller graduated from Grambling State University and took her talents overseas to play professionally.
She now plays for Lemvig Basket in Denmark in the DameLiagen League.
“It is very physical and challenging, but I feel I have adjusted well on the court,” said Miller.
“The way of living here is very different, but I’m glad they can understand English. And as for the weather here, it’s not as sunny as Louisiana and California, but it is OK.”
Miller appreciates everyone who helped her get to this point in her life, and she always live by a quote from her father: “Don’t ever forget the bridge that brought you over.”