Your donation will support the student journalists of Kirkwood High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.
Bruins or bust
September 27, 2016
One step at a time. One step at a time. One step at a time.
Lauryn Miller, senior and UCLA basketball commit, kept repeating the phrase to herself after she had surgery for a torn ACL and meniscus in July 2015. During an ordinary drill at an AAU (amateur athletic union) practice, Miller immediately knew something was wrong when she felt her leg pop.
“I stopped and turned to pass the ball and the motion I went with my left leg snapped inward and I went down immediately,” Miller said. “I started crying because everyone in the gym was silent and my heart was broken because I knew that I was going to be out for a while.”
The very next day, Miller went to her orthopedic doctor, and she heard the news she was dreading to hear. She would have to sit out of the game she loved for eight months.
“In the beginning it was incredibly hard to be on the sidelines during games, and it didn’t get much easier, but I learned to deal with it,” Miller said. “I think it was just so hard because for 10 years this is all I’ve ever done, and after the injury, I was forced to look from the coaches perspective, and I had to learn how to express myself in a different way.”
After the long and sometimes frustrating recovery, Miller knew she could not give up on something that had been a part of her life for so long. February 2015 marked the beginning of a comeback that her friends and family knew she had the strength to do. Though she had some fears about returning to the game, Miller said that the UCLA program never had their doubts.
“With UCLA, I had a really good relationship with the staff,” Miller said. “Throughout my injury, all the coaches were very supportive, and the whole time they were really confident in my abilities.”
But UCLA wasn’t the only school pulling for her. She received offers from Mizzou, Ohio State, Notre Dame and TCU. According to Miller, all the schools welcomed her with open arms and it helped that she knew certain players from past experiences and teams. Monica Tritz, KHS girls’ basketball coach, gave Miller advice throughout the process and she knew that UCLA would be an amazing experience.
“I think she really felt comfortable with the staff, and I know that was important to her,” Tritz said. “She had an opportunity to go to LA and she can have opportunities that the rest of us would never get to experience.”
One of Miller’s best friends and KHS 2016 graduate, Jordan Roundtree, attends the University of Missouri, where she plays on the women’s basketball team. Roundtree said she played an influential role in Miller’s recruitment process because she was always there to give advice or answer any questions. When Miller’s news came out, Roundtree said she already had an idea of where she wanted to go, so she wasn’t shocked that UCLA is where Miller found comfort.
“I would’ve loved her to pick Mizzou and I’m sure many others would’ve as well,” Roundtree said. “But she picked the school she really likes and she chose UCLA because she thought it would be a better decision for her.”
I’m really excited for the individual growth of just me becoming more than just ‘Lauryn the basketball player’ but growing as a woman, ”
— Miller said.
Miller expressed confidence in her decision to pack up and go across the country to pursue a career in basketball. She believes the UCLA basketball program will help her grow in many aspects. She admires that one of their main focuses is on players becoming women.
“I’m really excited for the individual growth of just me becoming more than just ‘Lauryn the basketball player’ but growing as a woman,” Miller said. “I’m eventually going to put the ball down, and it’s a big deal for me to become a better person and eventually a better mom and wife.”
On her official visit to UCLA last spring, Miller said she really connected with not only the coaching staff but with the players. She felt it was an environment she was going to be able to thrive in.
“The girls on the team are very selfless people,” Miller said. “I think it is really cool that they are so keen on making themselves so much more than who they are on the court.”
Family is a large part of Miller’s support system, during both games and large decision making. She said her parents were a big help through the stressful process, but Roundtree is someone she always seems to turn to in times of need and vice versa.
“We call each other our ride-or-dies,” Roundtree said. “She’s someone I can lean on through anything and she’ll be there through whatever, no matter the distance. No matter if we’re an hour and a half away or 25 hours away, I know that if I need something I can call her and she’ll be there for me.”
photo by Gabi Baker