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Miller’s passion is refreshing

When Wade Bell of the Clarion News called me the night of Nov. 16, 2004, I figured it was to tell me that North Harrison had drubbed Crawford County by about 100 points or so.
I was in the newsroom that night, finishing up a page that featured a column of mine about early-season injuries that had plagued girls basketball in the area.
‘Tara Miller injured her knee,’ Bell said. ‘They think it might be an ACL.’
I’ve known Miller since she was in the fifth grade. I remember watching her, wearing a t-shirt with her sleeves rolled up, running circles around boys three and four years older at Jarrod Bulleit and Jake Biddle’s Harrison County Basketball Camp.
I could see then that this girl, who had a brief cameo in the Nick Nolte movie ‘Blue Chips,’ was destined for greatness on the basketball court.
Heck, I went out on a limb and said she had my 2005 Miss Basketball vote … in 1998.
Every drop of sweat, every hour in the gym, was for her senior year and a run at the Miss Basketball or a spot on the Indianapolis Star Indiana All-Star Team
Now, with a twist of the knee, the dream was gone.
Or so I thought.
Knee ligaments that looked like chewed spaghetti and torn cartilidge resembling mashed cotton were not going to stand between Miller and her dream.
She worked a little harder on the weights, snuck in a few jumpers when she could, and went the extra mile to prove she was extra serious about realizing her goal.
Miller had knee surgery on Nov. 29. Exactly 143 days later, she was named an Indiana All-Star.
In a year when a Mr. Basketball-candidate excused himself from the all-star party ‘ either because of back pain or because the Gatorade National Player of the Year was third in the voting for Mr. Basketball ‘ it’s refreshing to see a prep athlete still take pride in playing for their state.
The jersey may only cost about $20, but to Miller ‘ and every other Indiana All-Star ‘ the honor of defending the state’s hardwood reputation is priceless.
— Let’s hear it for the girls.
Speaking of all-stars, it’s still amazing that despite their hoops success over the years, Harrison and Crawford remain as two of the few counties in the state to have never had a representitive on the boys’ Indiana All-Star Team.
I felt like Kyle Savely of Corydon Central should have made the squad last season. South Central’s Craig Schoen was another who had the moxie and the ability to land a spot on the team.
Before my time here, Scott Schoen (Craig’s oldest brother) was thought to have a shot.
Others for whom an argument could be made include Danny Mitchell and Alan Cox.
— The year was 1998, and I was probably about a block away from Market Square Arena the first time I saw Reggie Miller in person.
He was tall. REALLY tall. He looked down on me, with basketball in hand, and a ‘You can’t hang with my rain-makers’ smirk on his face.
The banner hanging off the side of the now-extinct MSA featured Miller and some cheesy catch-phrase that I don’t remember.
What I do remember is that the Pacers played Hakeem Olajuwan and the Houston Rockets that night, and Miller scored about half his jersey number (31).
On Monday night, the 39-year-old Miller scored in 28 in Indiana’s 82-79 victory over Boston in the opening round of the playoffs.
Michael Jordan will always be my No. 1 favorite professional basketball player, but Miller’s a close second.
He will go down in history as one of the coolest cats to ever lace ’em up for the National Basketball Association.