By Shannon McNamara for MSNsportsNET.com
November 13, 2008
WVU vs. North Carolina Central Game Notes
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It is easy to remember those that are gone – four-year starter Meg Bulger, WNBA champion Yinka Sanni and all-out hustler Chakhia Cole, just to name a few.
Yet the exiting of stars leaves an open door for new names to emerge. West Virginia guard Sarah Miles is ready to pounce at the opportunity.
“I’m ready to be a leader and a teammate that others feel they can come to,” Miles says, fully aware that this is her season to step-up both her game and role amongst the other Mountaineers. “Coach (Mike Carey) was trying to prepare me last year, and kept reminding me to be ready for this season. He would say, ‘Next year is your year.’”
“Next year” has finally arrived for Miles. Though only a sophomore, the San Antonio, Texas, native has already committed herself to becoming a court general for the Mountaineers, as evidenced by her 16 points and six assists in WVU’s lone exhibition contest, a 70-67 home loss to DT-3 on Nov. 9.
Miles does not see her age as a limitation this season. The Mountaineers are young – eight of the 17 listed on the roster are freshmen and sophomores. As only one of three holdovers from last season ago, Miles knows that she has no choice but to break through the glass ceiling and outperform expectations.
“It is a big responsibility, and I carry a heavy load,” Miles says in response to being a one of the lone veterans. “My teammates are always saying that they forget that I’m only a sophomore, but I’m willing to step-up and accept the responsibility.”
Only eight months removed from her rookie season, Miles still reflects on the lessons she learned from the seven graduated seniors, particularly guard Lateefah Joye, who Miles credits for not only welcoming her onto last season’s squad, but for also providing a base of knowledge for which she can build upon.
“Lateefah looked after me last season and always reminded me to keep my head up and to never give up,” Miles says. “I used to get down when I didn’t play and I wouldn’t understand why I wasn’t playing. She helped me understand that there were seven seniors in front of me, and that my time would come.”
The adjustment period did take a minor toll on Miles. The speedy, do-it-all player excelled at Sam Houston High, averaging 15 points, four assists and six rebounds as a senior. As difficult as it was for the four-time First Team All-District student-athlete to go from leading her team to a 13-0 conference mark to appearing in only 16 games as a reserve, Miles maintains that moving from Texas to West Virginia was even more difficult.
“Moving was an experience,” Miles reflects through laughter. “There was a lot of adjustment that I had to do, and new schedules I had to get used to. But, I had my teammates and coaches to help me.”
And when her teammates and coaches couldn’t help her, Miles always knew that her mother and grandmother were only a phone call away.
“It’s still hard being away from my family, but not as hard as it used to be,” she says. “I have adjusted and am used to being on my own now.”
Miles has adapted to being away from her Texas family, no doubt in part because she is now comfortable with her new Mountaineer family. And while she says she’s adjusted to being on her own, Miles knows she is never alone on the court, especially with four-year starter, senior point guard Ashley Powell, by her side.
“I’ve definitely learned from Ashley,” Miles says. “She’s always showing me things in practice. I’m just taking everything in that anyone dishes to me.”
Miles appreciates the help now, for she knows that once the 2008-09 season is complete and Powell graduates, all eyes will be on her.
“I just have that mindset that I have to step-up this year,” Miles explains. “Next year, Ashley’s going to be gone and all eyes are going to be on me for the answers. Everyone will look at me for the next step and the next move.”
Since her rookie season ended eight months ago, the self-described competitor has focused all of her energy and time toward preparing for her second year as a Mountaineer. Now, with WVU’s first game set to tip this Friday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m., against North Carolina Central, Miles is ready to be a consistent contributor for the Mountaineers.
“I’m not big on the fame or the shine, I just want to play my game,” says Miles. “If I’m out on the court, you’ll know I’m out there. If I’m not, I’m not going to complain. As long as I’m contributing in some way, I’m happy.”
As far as Miles is concerned, the BIG EAST season could start tomorrow – she’s ready.
“No one intimidates me; I’m not going to back down from anyone. I’m just going to give it my all,” Miles says, with conviction and passion evident in both her voice and eyes. “I’m looking forward to all of the big games – Connecticut, Rutgers, Louisville. I’m looking forward to all of them.”
And with that, Miles throws the door wide open. While the past stars may be gone, the future looks bright for the WVU women’s basketball team, with Miles leading the way.