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Diamond Miller stayed at Maryland and found herself

(G Fiume/Getty Images)

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.

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.

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Diamond Miller drives to the basket against Indiana's Grace Berger during her freshman year at Maryland. (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

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.”

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Miller, Shyanne Sellers and Faith Masonius have become closer as teammates and friends in the past year. (Alex Martin/Journal and Courier/USA TODAY Sports)

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.”

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Maryland coach Brenda Frese felt she had to re-recruit Miller after multiple players transferred out. (Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports)

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.”

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Miller had a big decision to make after friends Ashley Owusu and Angel Reese left the program last year. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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.”

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(Greg Fiume/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

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.

Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeper jersey sells out in less than three hours

uwnt goalie alyssa naeher wears jersey on the field with club team chicago red stars
USWNT star keeper Alyssa Naeher's new replica NWSL jersey was an instant success. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in the NWSL's 12-year history, fans can now buy their own goalkeeper jerseys. And while replica goalkeeper jerseys representing all 14 NWSL teams hit the market on Wednesday, some didn't stick around for long. 

Fans across women's soccer have long vocalized their discontent over the position's lack of availability on social media, often comparing the shortcoming to the widespread availability of men’s goalkeeper jerseys. And as the NWSL has grown, so has demand — and not just from those in the stands. 

"To have goalkeeper kits available for fans in the women’s game as they have been for so long in the men’s game is not only a long-awaited move in the right direction, it’s just good business," said Washington Spirit goalie Aubrey Kingsbury in an team press release. "I can’t wait to see fans representing me, Barnie [Barnhart], and Lyza in the stands at Audi!"

Business does, in fact, appear to be booming. Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars kit sold out less than three hours after the league's announcement. Jerseys for other keepers like DiDi Haračić, Abby Smith, Michelle Betos, Katelyn Rowland, and Bella Bixby aren’t currently available via the Official NWSL Shop, though blank goalkeeper jerseys can be customized through some individual team sites. Jerseys start at $110 each.

"This should be the benchmark," said Spirit Chief Operations Officer Theresa McDonnell. "The expectation is that all players’ jerseys are available to fans. Keepers are inspiring leaders and mentors with their own unique fan base who want to represent them... I can’t wait to see them all over the city."

Simone Biles talks Tokyo Olympics fallout in new interview

gymnast simone biles on a balance beam
Biles' candid interview shed light on the gymnast's internal struggle. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Decorated gymnast Simone Biles took to the popular Call Her Daddy podcast this week to open up about her experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, revealing she thought she was going to be "banned from America" for her performance.

After Biles botched her vault routine due to a bout of the "twisties," she withdrew from the team final as well as the all-around final in order to focus on her mental health. She later reentered the competition to win bronze in the individual balance beam final.

In her interview with podcast host Alex Cooper, Biles admitted to feeling like she let the entire country down by failing her vault attempt.

"As soon as I landed I was like 'Oh, America hates me. The world is going to hate me. I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now,'" she recalled thinking. "I was like, ‘Holy s---, what are they gonna say about me?'"

"I thought I was going to be banned from America," she continued. "That’s what they tell you: Don’t come back if not gold. Gold or bust. Don’t come back."

Widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles has hinted at a desire to join her third Olympic team in Paris, though her participation won't be confirmed until after the gymnastics trials in late June. She holds over 30 medals from the Olympic Games and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships combined, and if qualified, would be a sure favorite heading into this summer’s games.

Caitlin Clark reportedly nearing $20 million+ Nike deal

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever poses for a portrait at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during her introductory press conference
WNBA-bound Caitlin Clark is said to be closing in on a monumental NIke deal. (Photo by Matt Kryger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark is reportedly close to cementing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike.

The Athletic was the first to break the news Wednesday evening, commenting that the deal would be worth "eight figures" and include her own signature shoe. On Thursday afternoon, the publication tweeted that the deal would top $20 million, according to lead NBA Insider Shams Charania. Both Under Armour and Adidas are said to have also made sizable offers to the college phenom and expected future WNBA star.

The new agreement comes after Clark's previous Nike partnership ended with the conclusion of the college basketball season. She was one of five NCAA athletes to sign an NIL deal with the brand back in October, 2022. 

Considering Clark's overwhelming popularity and Nike's deep pockets, the signing's purported value doesn't exactly come as a shock. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s deal with the brand is reportedly worth $24 million, while NBA rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s deal is rumored to weigh in at $100 million. And in 2003, LeBron James famously earned $90 million off his own Nike deal. 

Clark’s star power continues to skyrocket, with the NCAA championship averaging 18.9 million viewers and the 2024 WNBA Draft more than doubling its previous viewership record. Following the draft, Fanatics stated that Clark's Indiana Fever jersey — which sold out within an hour — was the top seller for any draft night pick in the company’s history, with droves of unlucky fans now being forced to wait until August to get their hands on some official No. 22 gear.

In Wednesday's Indiana Fever introductory press conference, the unfailingly cool, calm, and collected Clark said that turning pro hasn’t made a huge impact on how she’s conducting her deals.

"If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year," she said. "Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them."

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

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