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Macy Miller dominating in first seven games of season

Mitchell's Macy Miller plays during a high school girls' basketball game against Brandon Valley Tuesday at the Corn Palace. (Sean Ryan/Republic)

Macy Miller came into her senior season with something to prove.

After a disappointing finish last year, the 2013-14 season started with a No. 5 ranking in Class AA for the Mitchell Kernel girls’ basketball team, which was something Miller took exception to. It’s no secret what she wants out of her senior season.

“The goal is to win state,” Miller said. “We want to win every game. I feel like we’ve really turned some heads so far.”

Led by the play of Miller, the Kernels are 7-0 and have climbed to No. 2 in the Class AA rankings. The team is outscoring their opponents by an average of nearly 17 points per game and is atop the Eastern South Dakota Conference standings at 5-0.

After setting a Kernel single-season scoring record with 493 points as a junior, Miller’s start to the 2013-14 season is eclipsing her penultimate campaign across the board.

Last year, Miller averaged 19 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 2.3 assists per game.

As a senior through seven games, the South Dakota State University commitis shooting 59 percent from the field, while scoring 28.5 points per game to go along with 7.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 4.3 steals and over a block each time out.

She has consistently been between 26 and 31 points all season. Miller’s lowest scoring output came in the first game of the season against Pierre with 26 points.

“Putting up 28 a game in the AA is tough, but she makes it look easy,” Mitchell girls’ basketball coach Wes Morgan said.

Fouling Miller doesn’t work for her opponents either, as she is 57-of-63 for 90 percent at the line this season.

The video game-like numbers have come despite being the focal point of every defense she goes up against. Miller is on pace to score 712 points this year if the team were to make it to the state tournament. The Mitchell High School record for most points — boys or girls — in a season is 689, which Memphis Grizzlies player and Macy’s cousin Mike Miller recorded in the 1997-98 season.

She has 1,353 career points, including an even 200 this year, and sits just 407 points behind former teammate Kerri Young for the school’s all-time career points record of 1,760. With the potential for 18 more games this year, Miller would need to average 22.62 points per game the rest of the way to break the Mitchell girls’ all-time mark.

“The records aren’t something I really think about,” Miller said in her usual modest demeanor. “If it happens, that’s great. I just want to win games.”

Despite playing on a level all her own, Miller only ever wants to talk about the team and does not boast about what she has done or is doing.

“I could score four points and wouldn’t care as long as we win,” Miller said.

With Young and Kristin Sabers now graduated and playing in college, the role of primary scorer and team leader has fallen squarely on the shoulders of Miller.

“Instead of being a really good complimentary player prior to this year, she has learned how to be a go-to player,” South Dakota State University women’s basketball coach Aaron Johnston said about his future player. “People look at her numbers and think she is just scoring a lot of points, but she is making everybody around her better.”

While she is quiet and unassuming off the court, she has worked hard to embrace the role of leader in practice and on game day.

“She is a great kid,” Morgan said. “She’s a calm kid and loves to have fun. But when she steps on the court, she becomes a real athletic kid. She does a lot of things right and covers up a lot of our mistakes.”

In the Kernels most recent win over Brandon Valley Tuesday, Miller set the tone early with four steals in the first quarter, which led to fast-break points for her team and an early lead.

“This year I am more of a leader and coach just told me to always come out strong in the first half and your team will follow you,” Miller said. “Coach has lots of confidence in me and I see the confidence of the team growing.”

The emergence of junior Taylor Volesky has provided additional scoring and a relief valve for Miller when defenses attempt to clamp down on her.

“It makes me more comfortable because it doesn’t always have to be me,” Miller said of Volesky. “I have confidence in her getting to the basket and making shots.”

Volesky has scored over 15 points in each of the last five games for Mitchell.

While Miller’s offense makes her a star, she takes pride in playing strong on both ends of the court.

“The one thing people don’t talk about is her defense,” Morgan said. “She is probably as good defensively and she is offensively. A lot of times that doesn’t go hand-in-hand.”

Morgan added Miller is always looking to use her length and athleticism to get a hand on the ball and get out on the break.

With 30 steals in seven games this year, Miller has the ability to cause headaches on defense as much as offense for opposing coaches.

“Defense is really important to our team because when you go hard on defense, the offense will come with,” Miller said.

With goals still in front of the Kernels this year, Miller does have a future lined up at SDSU where she is signed to play in the fall.

“I’m excited because it’s really close to home and my family can come and see the games,” Miller said about what makes SDSU the right fit for her.

Playing for SDSU is a long time coming for Miller, who verbally committed as a sophomore. She will join Young, who has made an early impact with the Jackrabbits as a freshman this year.

Miller says her offseason focus was to improve her ball handling and outside shooting, knowing that the competition will get tougher next year. Johnston said Miller will have to get comfortable with the college game quick, as SDSU will be playing Big Ten and Big East competition at the start of next year.

“Her presence on the court is just so confident and calming for her teammates,” Johnston said. “In big games, she really seems to want to rise up and make a play at a key time.”

Johnston projected that Miller can be a really good combo guard for the Jackrabbits, playing either the point or shooting guard position with success.

“I want to start as a freshman, which I know is tough to do, but that is my main goal for next year,” Miller said.

Morgan said she could, but it’s not important for Miller to start right away. Instead, she should focus on playing so strong in the time she does get on the court next year, that Johnston will have no choice but to leave her out there.

“She is going to make SDSU very competitive over the next four years,” Morgan said. “A 6-foot point guard with her speed and athleticism will be tough to stop at the next level.”

With nearly a third of her senior season with the Kernels now gone, time is running out for Kernel fans to come out and see Miller play on the Corn Palace court.

“I think our fans need to come out and see this kid play,” Morgan said. “This might never happen again. You don’t get to see a player and teams like this come through very often.”