Miller’s time was grand
Ashtabula great passed 1,000 in both points and rebounds in her career
By Chris Larick
For the Star Beacon
Always on the lookout for talent to stock his junior high girls basketball teams, Roby Potts spotted a tall cheerleader. What he discovered was a diamond in the rough.
“I didn’t want to play basketball until junior high school,” Angela Miller, who will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on April 7, said. “I was a cheerleader and did volleyball. But Coach Potts said I was tall and athletic and should try out for basketball. It developed from there.”
Miller’s parents, Walter and Sandra, had always stressed to their children that they needed to stay active. That led to things like working for the church, doing a paper route and twirling a baton.
In junior high, Miller grew to about 5-foot-8 and was 5-9 in high school, tall for a girl in those days, but not so much that she dwarfed other players.
“I never got a growth spurt like some girls do,” she said. “I’m now about 5-10 or 5-10 1/2.”
Miller starred on Ashtabula junior high and high school teams that also included Lisa Whetro, Lakesha Jones and Rebecca Kirkpatrick. Potts, who had been coaching at West Junior High, moved up to take over the high school team with that group of girls.
“Coach Potts was my favorite coach, starting in junior high school,” Miller said. “He was not only a good coach but a good person and fair. He ran a great offense and a pretty good defense. My favorite thing was to go for the steal and go fullcourt for the layup. That and blocking shots.”
Though the Panthers were a good team, they found their path to a championship blocked by a stronger team.
“We did fairly well,” Miller said. “I was the center. We never won a championship, but we always had a winning season. I was the top scorer with at least 15 points a game.”
As good as Ashtabula was, Jefferson always had its number at the time.
ANGELA MILLER of Ashtabula battles Shelly Burns (13) and Jodi Springer of Jefferson for possession of a loose ball during a game in the 1993-94 season at Ball Gymnasium. In the background is Falcon Tami Mullen (31). Miller will enter the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on April 7.
ANGELA MILLER: "I didn't want to play basketball until junior high school. I was a cheerleader and did volleyball. But Coach (Roby) Potts said I was tall and athletic and should try out for basketball. It developed from there."
“It was always Jefferson,” Miller, who finished with 1,041 points in a three-year varsity career and was one of six Panthers to grab more than 1,000 rebounds in a career, sighed.
Miller earned first-team Star Beacon All-Ashtabula County and All-NEC honors as a junior and senior. As a senior in 1993-94, she shared Star Beacon Ashtabula County Player of the Year honors with Shelly Burns of Jefferson.
She was also a standout in volleyball.
“For my size, I had good pins,” Miller said. “I could jump pretty well. I could get up and spike the ball.”
She was recruited by several Division III schools, collegeslike Mount Union, Capital, Edinboro and Akron, now a Division I school. But Division II Clark Atlanta University, a 6,000-student college in Atlanta, Ga., eventually won her over.
“Mom and Dad recorded the games and sent out tapes,” Miller said. “I don’t know how we got down to Clark, but the volleyball coach saw the tapes and was interested. It was a late decision, two or three months before school started. They invited me down for a visit. It was a big city, which was a nice change, and they gave me a scholarship.”
Miller played volleyball at Clark all four years under coach Larry Nolley. A knee injury curtailed her college basketball career, but she also became interested in track and field, throwing the shot and discus.
“I got talked into that,” she said. “I had done it in high school for a while, but I never did anything about it (in college) when I was a freshman and sophomore. In my senior year, I won the conference in the discus. The shot was not as good for me, but I was OK.
“It’s completely different now. They do a lot more training. I think I threw (the discus) 120 feet or so.”
In volleyball, Clark was a good team, but was frustrated from winning a championship by another school, Alabama A&M.
“We made it to the championship game, but they always beat us,” Miller said. “We did have winning seasons in the conference.”
While at Clark, Miller majored in sports medicine, studying to be an athletic trainer. After graduation, she worked for 11 years as a trainer in Atlanta, earning her master’s degree in the process. She worked at Morehouse College there as an assistant trainer. Then, in 2005, she moved back to Ohio, taking a job as a trainer at Columbus State Community College. She then worked at a hospital for almost a year before moving back to Atlanta, where she now lives.
Improved weather was one reason, but so was the desire to become a nurse at a trauma hospital in Atlanta.
“I work with severe injuries, things like car accidents and stabbings,” she said. “I was always interested in the body and how it works. I wanted to go back and broaden what I can do. Some of it is gory stuff, but it’s never boring.”
Working at two different hospitals, she puts in 50 to 60 hours a week.
These days, she doesn’t play competitive sports, because of knee injuries she has incurred. In 1995, during the first day of basketball practice in her freshman year at Clark, she tore her ACL.
“They scoped it and I could play on it,” she said. “Then I ruptured my patella tendon in 2001 during one of the classes we had I was doing a jump test. That can’t be fixed with arthroscopic surgery; it’s a lot worse than an ACL. I was on crutches and immobilized for three months.”
Miller, now 37, is able to workout at a gym, though, working on the ellipticals and treadmills.
“I just don’t jump,” she said. “I work out. I also hang out with my friends and love to travel.
“I’ve been to St. Thomas and the Bahamas, Los Angeles and Chicago.”
Miller’s brother, LaJuan, a year-and-a-half younger played football for Ashtabula and went on to play for Grambling State. She also has an older brother, Andre, 41, who also played sports at Ashtabula.
Larick, a retired Star Beacon sports writer, is a freelance writer from Geneva.