Future Sun Devil leads Lady Warbirds into Class 'B' State Tournament
WOLSEY — Area basketball fans have likely noticed Mallory Miller on the court this season for the Wolsey-Wessington Lady Warbirds.
Of course, at 6-feet, 4-inches, it’s hard to miss Miller on the court!
Area fans will have more chances to see Miller and her teammates in action next week during the State Class “B” Girls’ Basketball Tournament to be held at Huron Arena, where the Lady Warbirds will hold the top seed.
After having scouts and recruiters from across the country following her for much of her senior season, Miller recently made the decision to continue her basketball career next year at Arizona State University, home of the Sun Devils, where she will team up with her sister Hanna, who is a freshman at Dodge City Community College this season.
The Miller sisters paired last season to take Aberdeen Christian to the state tournament in Watertown where they brought home sixth place and had a 21-5 season.
The decision to attend Arizona State was made in large part due to the opportunity to play alongside her sister, but Miller is clear that she focused on the best opportunity.
“It wasn’t really a deal-breaker because I would have gone somewhere else if it wasn’t the right fit for me, so we talked about it,” Miller explained. “I was very much considering Arizona State before they offered Hanna, so it just blended that way.”
Asked what drew her to the Sun Devils, Mallory explained, “I like their style of play, the coaches, and I think it’s a program that’s on the rise with a really good recruiting class coming in.”
COURTESY PHOTO - Mallory Miller has her photo taken, wearing the Arizona State University uniform that she will wear next season for the Sun Devils.
When Hanna went to Dodge City after last school year, Mallory looked for an opportunity to play with someone else who she had teamed with for many years, Wolsey-Wessington senior Leah Williams, who has been a long-time teammate on summer Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball teams.
“I’ve been playing basketball with Leah since 8th grade,” Miller explained. “So that’s the main reason I’m here.”
Miller came to the Lady Warbirds as the top unsigned senior in the state of South Dakota entering the school year, but she and many of her basketball teammates had another sport to focus on first — volleyball.
Miller is a two-sport athlete and starred on the volleyball court as well, all the while working her way through the recruiting process. She stated that she never felt “pressure” during that time.
“I really didn’t. I had been recruited since the beginning of my high school years by Northern State University (in Aberdeen),” Miller related. “I knew if one of the bigger programs didn’t work, I’d have facilities that were just as good at Northern and a coach who believed in me there.”
Wolsey-Wessington would go on to defeat perennial powerhouse Northwestern at the state volleyball tournament before falling to eventual champion Warner in the semifinals. The Lady Warbirds would storm back to claim third place over Burke.
Miller noted the season with the volleyball team allowed for relationships to form, which carried into the basketball season.
“Our main group of basketball girls played volleyball, too,” Miller stated. “There’s a chemistry that builds there.”
Wolsey-Wessington coach Josh McGillvrey also observed that the long volleyball season gave his team an advantage in conditioning, but he was impressed by the team’s willingness to get right to basketball.
“They were shot when they got back Sunday from the state volleyball tourney, and we talked about giving them until Wednesday before their first practice, but they said, ‘no, coach,’” McGillvrey recalls. “They were ready to go.”
With a strong returning core to a team that was upset in the regional tournament last season, McGillvrey said the addition of Miller took some time for everything to “click” but it wasn’t due to any issue with Miller taking a “star” route.
“When she came, she fit right in. She has an outgoing personality and gets along with everyone,” McGillvrey noted. “You have someone with that talent, and a lot of times they forget about doing the little things. Not her.”
He continued, “She has been a great teammate, very encouraging, especially to the junior high and junior varsity girls. That’s been pretty incredible.”
Coach McGillvrey adds that Miller added a dynamic that is unique to her.
“She’s one of the best players in the state. Being 6-4, to see the floor, and make the passes she can make while being athletic enough to run the floor, you just don’t see that,” McGillvrey observed. “She’s been a lot of fun to coach and be around.”
Miller credits the Lady Warbirds staff for setting up the team well to work through early-season coordination issues and help everyone get on the same page.
“Everyone bought into Coach McGillvrey and what he was saying. We just want the best for the team,” Mallory explained. “I think we’re peaking at the right time as we head into the postseason. Everyone’s playing well together.”
“Coach McGillvrey is a good mix of serious and goofy and has really helped everyone to work together,” she continued. “And the other coaches all fit into their roles perfectly.”
Miller took time during the season to do a recruiting trip, but she states that her focus was on the team throughout.
“The game I missed was Sunshine Bible Academy, and we had played them earlier in the season and the seniors had barely played that game,” Miller remembered. “The team was very supportive.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF CRAIG WOLLMAN - Wolsey-Wessington’s Mallory Miller puts up a shot in the paint during a Class B SoDak 16 game against Leola/Frederick Area on Thursday at Huron Arena.
Now, with three 1,000-point career scorers in the lineup and one of the top players in the state, Miller says the team is excited for where it’s headed.
“When I was younger, I went to every state tournament,” Miller recalled. “We really play well together, and I think we can have fun this year at the state tournament while focusing on the goal to win.”
She’s also hoping that the state tournament in Huron could be a big advantage for the Lady Warbirds.
“The home court advantage is definitely big,” Miller observed. “We’ve played in Huron Arena more than any other team has in Class B, and all our fans are just 15 miles away, so we should have lots of support there.”
With her recruiting now complete, once the season is done, Miller can focus on school and preparing for life after prep basketball. She’s had plenty of family support along the way to get there.
“In grade school, my dad was our coach,” Miller explained. “My dad went on every school visit with me. He probably talked to more people than I did on the visits and asked lots of questions.”
She’ll continue to have that support as a Sun Devil.
“My grandma actually lives about 15 minutes away from campus,” Miller stated about the Arizona State campus. “She’s a snow bird, so she’s around during our winters”
She says when she she unlaces her sneakers, she is involved with her church, attending a weekly Bible study. During the summer, she enjoys going to the lake to relax.
Hopefully, she’ll be able to relax with a state title to cap her illustrious career.