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Miller time: Metro hoops star goes West--to Western Illinois

Miller Time: Tayler Miller has been an all-around talent for the Lady Panthers
Miller Time: Tayler Miller has been an all-around talent for the Lady Panthers
Photo courtesy of Western Illinois sports information

She has been one of the most productive high school basketball player in the St. Louis area and the state of Missouri the past couple of seasons. She has also been every bit as versatile.

If this were baseball, she would be considered a utility player, check that a utility superstar. She can play any position on the floor, which sort of makes a hybrid description, such as 'point forward'.

But Metro's marvelously talented Tayler Miller was still looking for a next-stop destination until early last month. That's when the 5-foot-11 combo guard/ post/ wing player finally decided to take her talents west- to Western Illinois University that is. As it turns out, it the Miller-Western Illinois alliance was a perfect match made in Macomb, home of the Leathernecks.

"She felt a high comfort-ability level at Western Illinois," said Terrence Miller, Metro assistant coach and also her father. "Maybe some people may say she didn't pick the biggest school or the most glamorous place, but she chose the program where she felt the most comfortable. She noticed that she had a great rapport with the coaches there. It was just a great fit."

Miller missed the final 10 games of her senior season, including the playoffs, with a broken ankle as Metro closed out with a 20-8 campaign, despite a challenging mostly large-school schedule. But that didn't stop Miller from having one of the most well-rounded seasons a player could expect to have, as a star opposing teams target: She averaged 18.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 4.5 steals and 1.4 blocks per contest. As a junior, she averaged 18.8 points and 11.7 rebounds.

Miller finished as the program's career leader in points with 1,621 and rebounds with 1,002. Metro went to five straight Missouri state tournament final four berths in the 2000 decade and won back to back state titles in 2006 and 2007. Furthermore,given that Metro had been a state title contender in the small-school bracket virtually ever year since, Miller has surpassed a bevy of star players to reach that plateau.

"We are really excited to add Tayler to our Leatherneck family," said Lady Leathernecks coach J.D. Gravina. in a statement announcing her signing. "Her size and athleticism coupled with her basketball skill made her a perfect fit in our system. Tayler is as versatile as they get. She can score, rebound and defend. I also feel that her most underrated attribute is her passing skills. She will make other players around her better."

Considering that Metro other players to injuries and transfers in recent seasons, Miller had to put that versatility and athletic ability to maximum use, which she did in leading the Lady Panthers to consecutive 20-win seasons despite playing a brutal schedule of larger schools.

But this is the same athlete who has also been one of the league's top volleyball players, as she led Metro to a lofty 19-2 mark last fall and the PHL crown. As a basketball player she has played all over the floor with impressive results.

"I think playing different positions has really helped me develop as a player," said Miller. "For my height, at 5-11, I would be considered under-sized as a forward, so I think I could be a good fit as a guard on the next level."

Tayler said she has been rehabbing successfully from the ankle injury, although a premature playoff exit was painful, figuratively speaking.

"It has been going really well," she said. "Now I can run and do everything I was able to do before I broke my ankle. We were hoping that we could go a lot farther in the playoffs, so that was really disappointing."

"She's been in the weight room every since her rehab process started after the injury," relayed Terrence Miller. "It was frustrating for her to sit and watch, as her team lost early in the playoffs because they were so dependent upon her. But everything happens for a reason. This will give her body time to rest and recover."

Meanwhile Miller's legacy at Metro and throughout the Public High League have been validated. Her versatility has reigned supreme, according to her head coach Gary Glasscock.

" She's a different type of player," said Glasscock. "Tayler can do multiple things very well. She also has very good court sense. She sees the floor real well. She rebounds well. She scores. She's strong underneath the basket. Not too many players have the ball-handling ability plus the strength that she has. She's a unique type of player. She's a strong, undersized post player with point guard abilities.Not too many players can do that."

Not surprising Miller is also an honor student and Metro's designated scholar-athlete for 2014, which in itself is a major academic honor, given that Metro Classical Academy has been cited by U.S. World and News magazine as a top 60 public high school in the country.

"Your talent is 'your talent', " noted Terrence Miller. "But academics come first. You have to work hard and let the chips fall where they may. You have to get that education first."

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