CROZET – Four local student-athletes decided over the last two years that the best place for them to continue their academic and athletic careers was at Miller School, a private high school in Albemarle County.
Two years ago, Chance Sheffey, who had just finished his junior year at Lee High, and Jaylin Reed, who was a rising freshman at Lee, both transferred to Miller. This year they were followed from Lee to Miller by Secret Bryant and Hannah Woodard. Three of the four reclassified once arriving at the Crozet school. Only Reed, currently a sophomore, didn’t. Sheffey is a Miller senior, Bryant is a junior and Woodward is a freshman — or as she said, “The baby of the group.”
Lee’s loss was certainly Miller’s gain as all four have been key contributors to the Mavericks’ basketball teams.
The four are all five-day boarding students, meaning they live at Miller during the week and go home on the weekends. Miller also has day students and seven-day boarders.
“It’s definitely different,” Sheffey said. “I had to leave family behind, friends behind. That’s always difficult. The campus is pretty nice, very diverse. Everyone just welcomed me in. It felt like home.”
Thursday night in Miller’s win over Liberty Christian Academy Sheffey finished with 16 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Reed finished with a team-high 18 points in the win.
“It’s been going good,” Reed said. “Basketball-wise, Coach [Danny] Manuel pushes us every day in the gym. School-wise, everything has been going great. The teachers are really good with you. You get all the help you need. Miller provides everything you really need so you can get ready for college.”
Reed made the decision to transfer to Miller because of both education and basketball. He said it was a chance to get new opportunities and improve his skills. Reed has already received a scholarship offer from New Jersey Institute of Technology, a Division I school in Newark. He has also gotten some interest from the University of Virginia, Radford and Stanford.
Miller’s athletic director, James Braxton, said his school does not recruit athletes from public schools. If a student expresses an interest in attending Miller, only then will someone from the school talk with them. Scholarships are available to help cover the $38,440 tuition for five-day boarders, according to the school’s website. For example, Sheffey is receiving a full scholarship according to his mother, Trina Sheffey, while Bryant’s father, Irvine Bryant, said his daughter is getting a partial scholarship from Miller.
Bryant said her dream is to attend Davidson, a Division I school in North Carolina. She has been talking to the Wildcats’ coach for a couple of years and has seen increased interest from the school recently. There are also other schools in the mix, but Bryant said she “really sees herself going to Davidson.”
Sheffey, meanwhile, will be the first of the foursome to head off to college. He has seen a lot of interest from Virginia Military Institute, but has also talked to Radford and Longwood and is looking at some Division III schools.
“I’m just keeping my options open,” Sheffey said. “Whatever college best fits me. It’s just been my dream to go play college basketball.”
As a freshman, Woodard isn’t thinking too far ahead just yet with plenty of time to decide on a college.
“I’m looking at colleges,” Woodard said. “But I’m really just keeping my grades up to keep myself eligible.”
Sheffey said the competition Miller faces is another reason he decided to attend the school. He occasionally saw some good teams while playing for Lee High — he was the News Leader’s All-City/County Player of the Year following the 2013-14 season — but he said almost all of Miller’s opponents provide a stiff test.
Bryant said the entire experience has been very different for her, but the clothing requirements may be the biggest difference.
“I’m not used to having dress code,” Bryant said. “I’m used to doing my own thing at Lee High. Here you can’t do that.”
Khakis and a collared shirt are required to be worn by all students.
“At Lee High you could wear sweatpants on game day,” Bryant said. “Here you have to wear khakis. I had to get a whole new wardrobe.”
Bryant really liked Braxton, who in addition to being the athletic director is Miller’s girls basketball coach, and the way he runs his program. The Mavericks won the VISAA Division II state championship last year, the second straight season Miller took home the title.
Bryant scored 17 points on February 2 in Miller’s 63-40 win over Roanoke Catholic. Woodard added eight points.
In addition to basketball, Bryant said she really likes the academics at Miller.
“Yes, I came here to play basketball,” Bryant said. “But I actually came here to focus on school too. My grades and GPA are ten times better than they were.”
Woodard agrees that the adjustment to Miller has been different but not necessarily difficult. The school attracts students throughout the world.
“I’m learning to accept new cultures and new ways and the lives of different people I’ve never met before,” Woodard said. “It’s learning to just to be open.”