News - Miller sisters mean March Madness
UGA seniors lead women Bulldogs to final tourney
Sweating out the Bulldogs' selection to the NCAA Tournament after Saturday's pathetic home-court loss to South Carolina? Then you're watching the wrong team. The University of Georgia's women are a lock for March Madness.
Crying for a winning team to support in this blasé sports town? Georgia's women were ranked No. 4 in the nation last week.
The Lady Bulldogs, unlike the sputtering Gentleman Bulldogs, are anchored by an All-American, Sullivan Award-winning, Naismith National Player of the Year-nominated backcourt.
Senior guards Kelly and Coco Miller, 22-year-old identical twins, both 5'10", both pre-med, both academic All-America selections, have been playing organized basketball since the fifth grade. But they've been playing with basketballs since they were 3 years old, the youngest of five children, hanging out with their father and older brother in Rochester, Minn.
That constant practice is how they eventually came to be the 1999 winners of the 13-and-a-half-pound bronze statue emblematic of the Sullivan Award, presented annually to the best amateur athlete in the country. The Millers are the first joint winners in the award's 70-year history, and only the fourth and fifth basketball players to win it. Going before them: Chamique Holdsclaw in 1998, Bill Walton in 1973, Bill Bradley in 1965.
If anything, the sisters are improving on their already solid reputations by surging up the rankings — virtually in tandem — in Bulldog basketball records. They became the third and fourth Lady Bulldogs ever to score 2,000 points, passing the legendary Teresa Edwards at 1,989, which they accomplished in exactly the same number of games: 121. For Kelly, that moment came amid a flurry of 31 points at Mississippi State on Feb. 4. Coco had to wait four more days, until the game at South Carolina on Feb. 8, to reach the 2,000-point milestone; she missed one game with the flu when she was a freshman. They will leave Georgia with only Katrina McClain (1983-'87, 2195 points) and Janet Harris ('81-'85, 2,641 points) ahead of them in scoring.
The Millers led the Bulldogs to the Final Four in 1999, to the Elite Eight in 2000. Their goal is to go deep into the tournament again this year. But right this minute, they are concentrating on leading Georgia into this weekend's SEC Tournament in Memphis, where there will be no getting around Tennessee, the eternal rut on Georgia's road to the Final Four.
One thing that can be said about Georgia's losses this season: Until Sunday's loss at No. 17 Vanderbilt (thanks to both centers fouling out) the Dogs have lost to the best. To No. 1 UConn at Connecticut in the season's first game. To No. 5 Notre Dame in South Bend. Tennessee was No. 2 when the Dogs lost to the Vols by a whopping 16 points; then they lost to Florida at Florida. But that was late January, when Georgia had a couple of injuries.
"The first two losses were early in the season," Kelly Miller says. "The last two, we weren't at full strength." And anyway, "We've improved so much since we played those first two games. We're working together better."
"The loss to Tennessee was a very close game," says Coco Miller emphatically, discounting the double-digit deficit. "We were up on 'em the whole time." And now, "Finally, at the end of the year we're getting everyone back. Our whole team is really prepared. We're excited for the SEC Tournament. You definitely get more excited at the end of the season."
On a neutral site, maybe Georgia can beat Tennessee. But they don't necessarily have to beat Tennessee to get a high seed in one of the NCAA regionals. Seeding will be the least of their worries, though; they have trouble against bigger, more physical teams no matter what the rank. The ACC teams are especially athletic.
Coco is unfazed by this. "This year we're very dominant on the inside," she says. "And we're dominant on the outside. We've got that one-two punch going for us."
The Millers have their own language on the floor, strange sounds, like speaking in tongues. But they are clear about this:
"It would definitely be disappointing not to win the SEC," Kelly says, "because we have the talent to win it. The national championship, though, is the goal."
Hot shots: What's hot in Atlanta sports
Wahhh -- Gary Sheffield thinks it's just terrible that he's making only $9.3 million. He wants the Dodgers to trade him.
Wahhh -- Frank Thomas refuses to report to White Sox camp because he feels underpaid. He'll make $9.9 million this season and has six more years on his contract.
Wahhh -- Barry Bonds wants the Giants to start negotiating a new contract; he feels underpaid at only $10.3 million.
Meanwhile, in Arizona -- The top 10 highest-paid Diamondbacks have agreed to defer money to the end of their contracts so the team can stanch the flow of red ink.
One whine we don't mind -- NASCAR, back on the track.
Fantasy league -- Who would you rather have on your team: Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, averaging $9.8 million this year, or one of the crybabies above?