- By Katie Kane
- October 05, 2010 08:59 AM
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - After three seasons with West Virginia women’s basketball, Sarah Miles went from a backup guard as a freshman to the BIG EAST’s Most Improved Player her sophomore season and on to the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year last year as a junior.
One might feel Miles has already proved herself and accomplished a lot in those three seasons, but the San Antonio, Texas, native feels different.
“I want to accomplish a national championship here,” Miles says. “I want it for West Virginia and the women’s program here deserves it. We work so hard and that’s what we work for.”
With the Mountaineers advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament twice in Miles’ career, the senior has had a sample of what the teams’ one common goal is this year, a national title.
Off the court, Miles has one other major goal and piece of unfinished business at West Virginia University.
“My family inspires me to work hard,” Miles says. “My mom is a single parent and watching her raise us and work hard has motivated me to get be her first child to get a college degree.”
The Sam Houston High graduate is a member of the Athletic Director’s Academic Honor Roll at West Virginia, an accomplishment Miles could not have predicted.
“I would never ever see myself in college,” Miles says. “Not just because of basketball, but I’m one of those people that never wanted to go to school. I’m really proud of myself that I did it. I did make it and I did everything I needed to do in school. I did not only make it because of basketball, I had to go to school in order to play so it is a proud moment and I’m happy I did it.”
Miles works hard on and off the court, and although she makes it look easy as she led the league in both steals (90) and assists (200) last season, there were obstacles she had to battle through. During preseason practice, Miles was running a routine play and felt a sudden pain in her shooting hand. After seeing the doctor, she learned it was fractured. The doctor gave her permission to play with the break, but at her will because the only thing that would heal the break was time.
“It was a freak accident in practice. It was painful, but I had my teammates and coaches continue to talk to me and the pain became mental,” Miles explains. “I was able to play through it since it was mental.”
In addition to earning the conference’s defensive player of the year honor, Miles also was selected to the all-BIG EAST second team, the all-BIG EAST tournament team and was a WBCA All-Region I nominee for the State Farm Coaches’ All-America team. Miles’ teammates and coaches helped her stay mentally strong through her injury, just as she tries to encourage the newcomers on the team to do the same.
“If I had advice for the new people on the team, it would be don’t get down on yourself,” Miles says. “The first year is always hard, we’ve all been there and we’ve all been through it and we know how hard it is. You have great leaders to look up to that will guide you in the right direction because we’re not going to let you down. Keep working hard and you’ll get through it.”
Miles is one of five seniors on this year’s team, ready to lead those newcomers. In addition to Madina Ali, Liz Repella, Korinne Campbell and Vanessa House, the Mountaineers also return sophomore starting center Asya Bussie, who was a unanimous selection to the all-BIG EAST freshman team last season.
Her headstrong ability, competitive toughness on and off the court and words of advice all show Miles’ role as a leader on the team.
“My role is to try to get everybody to communicate better, to be a leader and be able to answer any questions from any position,” Miles says. “Winning is the best part about the game of basketball. Being out there overall is fun and the competitiveness is a big part of it.”
And winning is the one thing on all of the Mountaineers’ minds as they conditioned in the off season. However, their hard work has not gone unnoticed as two national publications have already recognized them with a preseason No. 9 ranking.
With WVU’s practice officially opening Tuesday, Miles has one final season to take care of some unfinished business.