Basketball standout is keeping the sport "in the family"

By Jenelyn Russo     12/27/2015

Sports are all in the family for Rosary Academy senior Nikki Miller. Her father, Darrell, is a former Major League Baseball catcher who played for the California Angels, while her aunt, Cheryl, and uncle, Reggie, are both well-known names in the basketball world as hall of famers and Olympic gold medalists.

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Miller’s chosen sport for many years was soccer, where she played on the defensive side of the game as goalkeeper. But it took her own self-discovery, a trip to the Midwest in 2006 when she joined her family to watch the Indiana Pacers retire her uncle’s number, for Miller to find her way to the sport of basketball.

“I felt a need to play basketball, to keep it in our family,” says Miller. “I came back and started playing a month later.”

As the only senior on the squad this season for the Royals, the 17-year-old and two-year varsity player often finds herself in the role of “mom” for her team. But Rosary Varsity Head Basketball Coach Richard Yoon, feels Miller has a much broader impact on both her teammates and the program as a whole.

“Nikki has a physical presence we have not had on the team for a long time,” says Yoon of the power forward. “She has the ability to dominate games offensively, but also has the strength and tenacity to be tough on defense. She provides stability to our program while mentoring the younger players. Nikki definitely has the courage to take our team to the next level.”

When she’s off the court, Miller works alongside her family to serve homeless women in the community, providing hot meals, supplies, even a place to sleep, in an effort to bring some normalcy to their lives.

After graduation, the Yorba Linda resident has her heart set on becoming a teacher, a way for Miller to use her love of working with kids to make a difference in their lives. She’s unsure if she will continue to play sports beyond high school, but Miller acknowledges the game has taught her plenty that will serve her well in her future teaching career.

“Basketball has taught me…you have to learn how to win and how to lose,” says Miller. “That’s how life is too. It’s taught me how to be a better person because [I have] to be there for a team and be there for myself.”

Being surrounded by elite athletes while growing up has provided some inspiring role modes for Miller, but regardless of her family’s athletic pedigree, Miller leans on her faith, not sports, to define her path.

“My faith has guided me throughout my whole life,” says Miller. “I was raised to always put faith first. I know basketball isn’t who I am. My faith is who I am.”