Lizzie Miller does a lot of things well on a basketball court.
The De Pere senior is a threat as a 3-pointer shooter or can drive the lane with confidence.
The 5-foot-7 guard is capable of shutting down another team’s top scorer out of the backcourt or move inside to match up with a taller post player.
However, Miller’s greatest quality isn’t so much about what she actually does on the court. It’s more about what she can see on it that sets her apart.
“I think the biggest strength for me is I have pretty good vision of the court and just a good sense about basketball,” she said.
In the midst of watching her team struggle through a 12-12 campaign last year while rehabbing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee, Miller never lost sight of her goal of making a state run when she returned.
Miller played a key role in making her vision a reality this season by averaging 14.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game to guide De Pere to a 25-3 record and a WIAA Division 1 state runner-up finish.
The Fox River Classic Conference player of the year shot 41.5 percent from 3-point range and was an integral part to a suffocating Redbirds’ defense, which allowed 39.5 points per game this season.
For her efforts, Miller is the Green Bay Press-Gazette girls basketball player of the year.
“She’s such a dynamic player,” De Pere coach Jeremy Boileau said. “There were points where she wasn’t looking to score as much as we needed her to because she’s very unselfish. She does a great job of seeing her open teammates on the floor when girls collapse on her. When teams are focusing on her defensively, she’s looking to where she could find the open spot in there.”
It took Miller a while to find her groove again on the court after tearing her ACL during a club tournament in Chicago on July 11, 2015.
Miller completed her rehab by the end of February last year, but didn’t return to playing basketball again until June.
“I’m happy we took it slow and gave it time to heal all the way so I could feel confident on it,” said Miller, who received Division 1 first-team all-state honors from the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association and was a fourth-team choice on the Associated Press all-state team.
“There was a while where I wasn’t able to move sideways or laterally or couldn’t run. During that time I pretty much took set shots from everywhere on the court, which helped my form a lot I think.”
Miller started to return to form at the beginning of this season when her team was dealt a tough blow of having senior forward Lauren DeMille go down with a torn ACL in its second game.
Miller’s leadership and versatility helped the Redbirds adjust to eventually go on a 17-game winning streak to reach the D1 state championship game, where she played a crucial role in limiting UW-Milwaukee recruit Sydney Levy to six points against Appleton North.
The De Pere captain also was asked to help hold Mequon Homestead senior Chloe Marotta (Marquette) and Germantown senior Kenzie Schmitz (Miami, Ohio) in check despite giving up several inches to both NCAA Division I recruits.
“She was willing to accept whatever role we needed her to do to win,” Boileau said. “That’s all she cared about. During the playoff run she never really came off the floor unless she got in foul trouble and that didn’t happen a lot.”
Miller feels the individual accolades she has received are a credit to her teammates, especially fellow seniors Anna Boyd, Lexi Cerrato, Olivia DeCleene, Liz Nies and DeMille.
Although the end of the D1 state championship game didn’t go how they would have hoped, Miller will never forget the view from the court at the Resch Center with them.
“It was incredible,” Miller said. “Just being there on the court and looking around and seeing hundreds of fans all there to support us was really something amazing. I think that’s what we’ll remember years to come.”
– firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @andrewpekarek.