When Diamond Miller crossed up Notre Dame’s Kylee Watson with two seconds left on the clock of a tie game on Dec. 2, Maryland fans held their breath.
All but one.
Sitting on a couch in her family’s home in New Jersey, Adreana Miller didn’t flinch. Her younger sister had already put up 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the game, and when she saw the move Diamond was executing, it felt like it was happening in slow motion.
Adreana had seen it before. She’d been the victim of Diamond’s dagger-like shooting in countless games of one-on-one, where she’d look over her shoulder to see her younger sister burying that same shot. The one-footed jumper might as well have been a layup, Adreana said. Shooting off the bounce from the elbow is Diamond’s “bread and butter.”
The outcome, she believed, was a forgone conclusion.
So, Adreana didn’t even celebrate when the shot fell through the net, lifting Maryland to a 74-72 win over then-No. 7 Notre Dame in South Bend. But when Diamond put her finger to her lips, shushing the crowd, she couldn’t help but smile.
The moment was quintessential Diamond Miller.
DIAMOND MILLER 🥶Her 31 PTS & game-winner helped No. 20 Maryland take down No. 7 Notre Dame in South Bend. pic.twitter.com/5N7wkiPppf— Just Women’s Sports (@justwsports) December 2, 2022
DIAMOND MILLER 🥶Her 31 PTS & game-winner helped No. 20 Maryland take down No. 7 Notre Dame in South Bend. pic.twitter.com/5N7wkiPppf
Just nine months earlier, there were no forgone conclusions in Diamond’s life. She didn’t know if she would be in a position to hit buzzer-beaters. She didn’t even know if she would be wearing a Maryland jersey this season.
A knee injury that nagged her throughout her junior year needed surgery, and when the 2021-22 season came to a close, she found out her teammates and best friends at Maryland, Angel Reese and Ashley Owusu, would be leaving the program.
The basketball bubble she had grown accustomed to was changing.
For the first time in a long time, Diamond Miller’s future was uncertain.
By the time Diamond was old enough to play organized basketball, she had already been waiting years to put on a uniform. Her father, Lance, had been a standout player at Villanova — the school that later gave Diamond her first scholarship offer in eighth grade — and when Adreana was old enough, Lance set up an AAU program.
From then on, it was a waiting game for Diamond. She and the third Miller sister, LaNiya, spent countless hours on the sidelines, waiting for their turns.
Wanting to follow in her oldest sister’s footsteps, Diamond adopted the same short shorts that Adreana sported but added her own twist to the uniform. Diamond and LaNiya thought they would start a new trend when they accessorized their jersey and shorts with tall, tie-dye socks. One was blue and the other yellow, to match their team colors.
“They were up to my knees,” Diamond says with a laugh, her cheeks perking up to reveal two pronounced dimples. “We thought we were so cool.”
The socks didn’t last long, but basketball was never going away.
The only person in the Miller family who didn’t play the sport is their mother, Dreana — though that is a running joke with the Miller sisters. Despite aunts, uncles and grandparents all denying Dreana’s basketball background, their mother maintains that she played in high school.
Whether she did or didn’t doesn’t matter. Dreana is now fully a basketball mom. All three of her daughters played in college, and her youngest son, Landen, plays for his high school team. After numerous shooting sessions with her kids, Dreana has developed into a skilled rebounder.
But when it comes to basketball advice, Diamond goes to her dad. There was a time when she wasn’t so receptive to his input, but now she soaks it all in.
“He’s my dad, he’s my coach, and he’s also a mentor when it comes to the game,” Diamond says. “He sees things from a different perspective, now that he’s not playing.”
He was also responsible for the first time Diamond felt uncomfortable as a basketball player.
She always played up an age group with LaNiya, which despite being a more difficult level of basketball, brought a level of comfort. One day, the younger age group — the team Diamond technically should have been playing for — was low on numbers. Lance asked Diamond to step in, but she was resistant.
“I told him I didn’t want to play with them, and I was so nervous,” she says.
But being uncomfortable turned out to be a good thing. Because when Diamond played with girls her own age, she was able to see just how good she was. The years of playing up had paid off.
“When I played at my level, I was dominating,” she says. “And I was like, ‘Am I good at this sport?’ It was like an aha moment.”
After that, no element of basketball could scare her. At least not for a long time.
Diamond quickly became a sought-after prospect. By ninth grade, she could beat Adreana in one-on-one. She helped the USA U-16 team to a gold medal, became the leading scorer in Franklin High School history and was named a McDonald’s All-American. By the time she was ready for college, Miller had her pick of schools as the 18th-ranked player in the country.
She whittled down her offers to two schools, Notre Dame and Maryland, and chose the latter in part because of its proximity to her home state of New Jersey.
When she got to Maryland, Diamond enjoyed instant success. She played 19 minutes a game as a freshman, making three starts and averaging 7.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. During her sophomore year, Diamond completely erupted, earning All-Big Ten honors thanks to her 17.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.9 assist and 1.4 steals per game.
She expected more of the same in her junior year. But a knee injury meant Diamond could play in only 22 of her team’s games, and her numbers (particularly her scoring) took a slight dip.
It was a trying season, both for Diamond and for Maryland. The Terrapins started the season ranked No. 4 in the country before stumbling to a 23-9 record and a Sweet 16 loss at the hands of Stanford. Still, when it was over, Diamond drew praise for her play and the way she handled adversity.
Plus, the knee that limited her seemed healthy once more, and with a few weeks rest, Diamond thought she would be back playing basketball and preparing for the 2022-23 season with her friends.
That’s not what happened. Instead, for just the second time in her life, basketball made Diamond uncomfortable.
It was a spring day in 2022, just after the conclusion of her junior season, and Diamond wanted to be alone.
She spent her childhood surrounded by people, with a close-knit family and three siblings always there to keep her company. When she got to Maryland, Miller made two best friends that she spent all her time with. Being alone was never something she did.
But now, it was all she wanted.
Miller had a check-up for the knee injury that had nagged her all season. She no longer felt pain, so she went into the appointment as an optimist.
But her knee never healed. The stress fracture that she no longer felt was still there, and she was told she needed surgery.
She left the appointment in tears, keeping her head down and trying to get across campus as fast as possible so no one would see her and ask what was wrong.
But Miller’s quest for isolation was interrupted when she heard teammates Faith Masonius and Shyanne Sellers calling out to her.
“Diamond!” they shouted in unison. Their excitement quickly turned to concern as they saw the tears on Miller’s cheeks.
They asked what was wrong and Miller pushed them away. She needed space, or so she thought. But they wouldn’t relent.
“No,” they said, “We are driving you home.”
And so, while everything seemed to be falling apart, Miller got in the car. It was serendipitous that Sellers and Masonius were the two people there at one of her lowest points. They were her teammates, but at the time, Miller didn’t feel connected to them outside of a team setting. Soon, they would become two of her closest friends, and Masonius would even help her through physical therapy for her knee.
But when they picked Miller up that day, things were changing rapidly for the rising senior. Soon, her best friends on the team — Reese and Owusu — would announce their decisions to leave, and Miller would find herself at a crossroads.
Suddenly, nothing was going Diamond’s way, and she didn’t know how to handle it.
It wasn’t that Diamond was worried she wouldn’t recover from knee surgery, it was the missed time that scared her.
Despite all the success she’d had in basketball since she first pulled up those tie-dye knee socks, Diamond had a habit of comparing herself to those around her. She worried that while she focused on rehabbing her injury and getting healthy, everyone else in college basketball would be improving their skills. Diamond wondered if she’d be left behind.
“Everybody’s going to be above me now. I’m hurt, I can’t prove nothing for myself,” Diamond remembers thinking. “Everyone is just higher than me and better than me.”
But like the last time Diamond was forced out of her comfort zone, when her dad asked her to play for a different team, the injury had a positive impact.
It forced her to be alone with her thoughts, without the familiar sounds of sneakers on a court and dribbling basketballs. And Diamond learned to be more than just a basketball player. She loves the game so much that it consumed her, and when she couldn’t play, Diamond went through an identity crisis.
She remembers sitting in her room one day and asking herself, “Who is Diamond?”
And as she struggled to find herself, Diamond was also lonely. Her family was a phone call away, and her boyfriend was on campus with her, but Owusu and Reese — the friends that kept her smiling through the hardships — were no longer there. Owusu had transferred to Virginia Tech, and Reese had moved on to LSU. Diamond had no choice but to embrace her new circumstances.
“I found love in the loneliness of that situation,” she says.
So, while she recovered, Diamond committed to learning about herself and finding ways to love who she was off the court.
Diamond learned that she likes feeling sunshine on her face, and taking long walks with music to match whatever mood she’s in.
“I can be listening to sad songs, and still vibing and smiling,” she says with a laugh. “Or I can listen to Lil Baby and be rapping. I love a good variety.”
She learned that she likes puzzles. Her teammates tease her because she will break one out at any time of the day, even at 6 a.m.
Diamond also discovered that it wasn’t too late to form new friendships. She bonded with Sellers and Masonius, and another, unlikely person: coach Brenda Frese.
When Diamond got to Maryland, she wasn’t interested in having a relationship with Frese, other than doing what she said on the basketball court.
To people like Adreana, Diamond is playful, goofy and spirited. The kind of person that brings joy into every interaction. But to those outside of her circle, it takes longer for her to open up. And with such a strong circle of supporters, Diamond isn’t quick to let others in.
Frese had to work to connect with her star player.
“Freshman year, I didn’t even want to talk to her,” Miller says. “I didn’t want a relationship with her, but as time went on, I got more comfortable talking with her. I got to see her as a coach and a human all at once.”
It was the little things that made Diamond open up. Throughout the offseason, Frese was dealing with players transferring in and out. It was chaos trying to build a roster for 2022-23, but when it came to Diamond, Frese was focused on her well-being.
“She was always asking, ‘How are you? How is your knee?’” Diamond says. “And it was really important for me that she was more worried about my health.”
Over the summer, Diamond did an internship with Maryland’s Director of Basketball Operations and spent a lot of her time in the office with Frese. She had to communicate with her coaching staff in a new way, and in turn, they saw a different side of Diamond.
“It brought her out of feeling so quiet and uncomfortable,” Frese says. “She really blossomed and got comfortable with everybody.”
Diamond took her internship duties seriously. Frese was already accustomed to her intense focus and work ethic on the court, but soon discovered that Diamond carries that with her off the court as well. Even the most menial tasks were done with focus and care.
“You’re not sure how your best player is going to respond to in-house duties like that, but she was a rockstar,” Frese says. “Some people might give pushback, but she never did.”
When Owusu and Reese announced their decisions to transfer, it left Diamond as the lone starter from the 2021-22 season. With them in the transfer portal, and Chloe Bibby and Katie Benzan graduating, Diamond had no idea what the Terrapins roster would look like.
Diamond is a straight shooter. It may take a while for her to open up, but she is always honest. And honestly, she thought about leaving Maryland, too.
“I was nervous, because we weren’t really having a team,” she says. “I knew they were going to recruit really hard, but you still never know. I didn’t want to put myself in a situation, especially for my senior year, where I was struggling.
“I was definitely like, ‘Should I stay and try a new team out? Or should I leave?”
For Frese, keeping Diamond was the No. 1 priority in the offseason. She knew she’d have to build a brand-new roster, but Diamond had to be the foundation of the team.
So, she started recruiting her again.
“There were a lot of things going on behind the scenes, and her being persuaded and other teams trying to get her as well,” Frese says.
“I wasn’t just going to sit back and let other people have conversations with her behind the scenes. That’s the difference now with the portal is that it’s going on all year, and when the season ends, even more so.”
Diamond spent hours on the phone with her sisters and her parents, trying to sort out what was best for her. Ultimately, she came to a realization: No matter what she did, she would be starting over.
If she left, she would join a brand-new team, and if she stayed, a brand-new team would join her.
In countless conversations with various family members, they reminded her of one thing: The grass isn’t always greener.
“She had grown tremendously there, so why leave?” Adreana says. “At the end of the day, it’s about what you do with your opportunity, so we told her to worry less about other people and more about herself.”
In conjunction with her injury recovery and navigating what she wanted for her senior year, Diamond took their advice to heart. She worried about herself. Gradually, she realized that no matter what school she was at, or how long it took her knee to heal, she would still be successful. She didn’t have to fear being left behind as other players improved. She didn’t have to look at her competitors and try to be like them.
“There are a lot of great players out there,” she said. “And they do their thing, but they don’t strive to be me. There’s a lot of talented people, and maybe I can’t do what they do, but they can’t do what I do, either. But what I can do is be the best version of myself.”
One thing Diamond didn’t have to learn was what she wanted for her future. The WNBA has long been in her sights.
Diamond is considered the No. 2 prospect on most draft boards, behind Aliyah Boston of South Carolina. She’s 6-foot-3 with a long, athletic build — the ideal body type for the WNBA — and she’s versatile on both offense and defense.
“She’s going to be a really difficult matchup at the next level,” Frese says.
For Frese, that was a key point in her re-recruitment. Maryland has a reputation for developing WNBA prospects, and every time Diamond plays, she sees scouts in the stands.
In that respect, staying was a no-brainer.
The more she thought about it, the more the rest made sense, too.
“If I left or if I stayed, I was still going to play basketball and have to play basketball at the best of my abilities,” she says.
So, Diamond embraced the unknown.
She didn’t know who would be on the team — Maryland added five transfers in the offseason — or how they would mesh together. But when Diamond decided to stay, that’s what she was signing up for, and the senior decided to go into her last season with zero expectations.
“That was so weird, but I wanted to change my thought process on how I approached the game anyway,” she says. “I put in the work, I put in the preparation, I wasn’t about to overthink it.”
With Diamond as the cornerstone, Frese rounded out the roster with transfers Brinae Alexander, Lavender Briggs, Abby Meyers, Elisa Pinzan and Allie Kubek.
Leading up to the season, the Terrapins held a team retreat. During the day, they did obstacle courses and other team-building activities, and at night they stayed up late, watching movies and talking, like an elementary school sleepover.
The Terrapins took things day by day, then week by week, then month by month. And eventually, Diamond’s re-commitment and her team’s new commitment paid off. Suddenly, Maryland was competing. Suddenly, they were beating UConn and shushing the Notre Dame crowd and rising into the top 10 of the AP Top-25 poll. And despite the odds, the Terrapins became a tight-knit squad, finishing the season at 25-7 and earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament that begins Friday.
“You can see the love on the court,” Diamond says. “There is no animosity towards one another, and that is a good feeling.”
When Diamond shushed the crowd on Dec. 1, she was shushing all the doubters. The people who thought her team wouldn’t be successful without Owusu and Reese. The people who counted them out before the season even started.
It was a statement to everyone, including herself.
That she could get injured, come back and still be an elite player. That she could play with a whole new group of players and still be successful. That no matter what was happening around her, she was in control.
“At the end of the day, what was for her would be for her,” Adreana reminded her during many conversations.
Basketball was for her. Making big shots was for her. Maryland was for her.
Diamond didn’t need to go anywhere else to be successful. She didn’t need to compare herself to other players. She didn’t need to be just a basketball player.
Now, Diamond is grateful for the injury. She says God knew she needed it. Until that point, everything had been too perfect. It pushed her out of her comfort zone and reminded her of something.
No matter what’s going on around her, one thing will always be certain.
“I’m still Diamond Miller,” she says with a smile. “I’m one of a kind. There is only one of me.”
Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.