Some athletes would never put themselves at such risk.
Play a dozen or so high school basketball games on a surgically repaired knee with a college scholarship waiting to kick in next summer?
Why take the chance?
Coco Miller found herself in that situation this season, and the decision was a no-brainer for the standout guard on the JSerra girls’ team.
“I just wanted to make it back for my team,” Miller says after a recent Trinity League victory.
And the Lions were beyond excited to have her back.
Miller became the all-time career scoring leader at JSerra even before her senior year, averaging 22.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.8 steals last season en route to her third straight first-team all-league selection and a first trip to the CIF-SS finals.
Right when I stepped on the court it was adrenaline at first … My knee felt strong, so I was ready to go.
She was freshly committed to play for UC Santa Barbara when she fell awkwardly while playing for her club team at the start of last summer. At first it didn’t seem like a major injury, but an MRI shortly afterward told another story: a torn ACL.
She initially figured she had no chance of returning for her senior year at JSerra, but the doctor who performed the surgery in July was optimistic she could come back in six months, if all went well during rehabilitation.
“I tried everything I could to get back,” Miller says.
Her teammates watched in awe.
“We saw her going through rehabilitation and all the pain and effort she put in to get back on the court with us,” says fellow four-year starter Megan House. “It really just showed us the love for the game and the love she has for us, because I know if she just played for herself, she’d still be on the sidelines.”
UCSB didn’t budge on their commitment to Miller either. She signed her letter of intent in November and later that month returned to the court for the first time.
“Right when I stepped on the court it was adrenaline at first, and so it felt good to be on the court,” she says. “From there, it was like, ‘I feel like I can do this.’ My knee felt strong, so I was ready to go.”
Miller made her season debut January 8 and scored four points in limited minutes. She continued to ease her way back until getting the green light to go all-out late last month and promptly scored 28 points in a victory against Santa Margarita.
“As tragic as it was, and how much I wish it hadn’t happened, [Miller’s injury] did make us stronger,” House says. “Now that she’s with us, we’re just unstoppable.”
The next step is capturing what fell just out of their reach last season; a CIF-SS title.
The Lions made it to the Division IV-AA title game last season but ran into Bishop Montgomery, a traditionally strong program from Torrance. JSerra was leading by a point in the final minute, but couldn’t hang on and lost 46-43 in the program’s first trip to a championship game.
“Hopefully, we’ll make it back to the CIF championship and win it this time,” Miller says.
The Lions certainly have the right person to lead them there.