As one of the longest-tenured players on the Maryland women’s basketball team, Diamond Miller knows the weight of expectations.
After all, it’s her shoulders upon which the No. 17 Terps’ hopes of regular and postseason success in the 2022-23 season rest. Especially after an offseason in which the team watched five players transfer, including a pair of starters in power forward Angel Reese (St. Frances) and point guard Ashley Owusu, Miller is the face — and leader — of the squad.
The 6-foot-3 senior shooting guard, however, shrugged off any such label.
“I feel like people just talk, and people are going to say whatever at the end of the day,” she said. “So as long as I just do what I do on the court, that’s all I can do. I can’t control people and what they say, and I’m not trying to control anybody. All I can do is control what I have control over, and that’s me playing on this team and me and my teammates doing what we have to do.”
If there is one person on the team capable of bearing such a burden, Frese pointed at Miller.
“I think Diamond welcomes that responsibility,” she said. “To be a senior, Diamond’s always wanted to have a big role and have that responsibility. That’s the best of the best that have come through here, and she’s more than prepared for it.”
After last year’s squad wrapped up a 23-9 campaign with a 72-66 loss to Stanford in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, Miller watched Reese (LSU), Owusu (Virginia Tech), power forward Mimi Collins (North Carolina State), shooting guard Channise Lewis (Pittsburgh) and shooting guard Taisiya Kozlova (Dayton) transfer out of Maryland during a frenetic 12-day stretch. While admitting that the idea of joining them crossed her mind, Miller dismissed the notion of finding greener pastures elsewhere.
“The grass is green where you water it,” she said. “The grass could be greener on the other side, but at the end of the day, basketball is still basketball.”
Frese said she didn’t have to engage in conversations with Miller about staying because of Miller’s character.
“Diamond’s not a follower; Diamond’s a leader,” she said. “I think you’ve seen that. For Diamond, it’s, ‘Why would you leave a great situation?’ and she’s had a great experience. She even fought through the adversity of last year with the knee injury. I think every transfer has their own separate, individual reasons, and I think she continues to validate that she knew where the best place for her was to be.”
After racked up 17.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, 40 total steals and 28 overall blocks as a sophomore, Miller’s numbers dropped to 13.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 30 steals and 19 blocks last season. She revealed last week that she was hobbled by a stress fracture in the patella in her right knee that made it difficult for her to walk or straighten her leg.
After undergoing surgery in the offseason, the difference has been refreshing.
“I just feel more confident in myself,” said Miller, one of 20 candidates for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award given to the top shooting guard at the Division I level and a preseason All-Big Ten selection. “I’m happier, less stressed, and I just feel happy.”
After becoming the 36th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point milestone last winter, Miller can expect to be a focal point for every opponent. But sophomore shooting guard Shyanne Sellers said she doesn’t anticipate such scrutiny bothering her veteran teammate.
“I don’t think she feels pressure,” Sellers said. “I think Diamond just rises to the occasion and wants to be the best.”
Miller is working with Sellers to help acclimate eight new players — four transfers and four freshmen — to the Terps’ playing style. While anticipating some growing pains, Miller said there is room for growth.
“There’s always going to be ups and downs,” she said. “Basketball is a long season. Every game is not going to be perfect, but we know as long as we put the same effort every time we step on the court, then we’re doing something right.”
As much as Miller will be expected to lead the offense, her contributions on the defensive end of the floor may be just as prized. During a recent practice, she moved from her usual area along the perimeter to play down low during a zone defense drill.
Frese said Miller’s intensity on defense can rub off on her teammates.
“She’s so versatile, she can play 1 through 5 for us,” she said. “And I love the fact when she starts setting the tone with her defensive intensity, she should be the best player in the country and in the conference on the defensive end and has the capability. When she’s setting the tone with her energy on the defensive end, then great things are in store for us.”
Miller said she is eager to help get Maryland back into contention for a Big Ten championship after the team was voted to finish fourth in the conference’s preseason poll. As for personal objectives?
“I have other goals that I’m going to keep to myself,” she said. “Just ball out and play like a dog.”
No. 17 Maryland at George Mason
Monday, 7 p.m.