Perhaps the only thing in life that Sam Miller enjoys more than playing basketball is her love of animals.
Particularly those of the aquatic kind.
The good news for the Dallastown girls’ basketball standout is that her college aspirations will allow her to put both of her loves to good use in one place.
After visiting several schools to size them up, it became apparent early on that Miller's mind and her heart were leading to one place.
Her first visit this past summer was to Saint Francis University in Loretto. Immediately, the bar was set pretty high.
“It was a 100 percent fit,” said the 6-foot, 1-inch forward. “They had my aquarium and zoo science major there and a scuba diving club. So it couldn’t get any better than that.”
Miller made up her mind on the spot, but her parents made sure she visited other schools just to make sure.
“Once I met with the basketball coach and the players, I knew that this was the one,” Miller said. “But my parents were saying that it was still kind of early. They wanted me to look at different colleges. And I visited Loyola (Maryland) and I liked that too, but I always compared everything to Saint Francis."
After getting an offer of a full scholarship to the NCAA Division I school located west of Altoona, Miller made it semi-official last week by verbally accepting the school’s offer. Her commitment will become binding when she signs her official letter of intent in late November.
“Once they gave me the offer I was ready,” said Miller, who averaged 8.8 points per game as a junior. “They were my No. 1 from the beginning.”
Coming off strong season: Saint Francis is coming off a strong season last year under coach John Haig. The Red Flash won the Northeast Conference en route to an NCAA Tournament berth.
One of the program's biggest selling points was the team's style of play. The Red Flash love to shoot from the perimeter, which is a skill set that Miller has been working on over the past several years.
“I really like that they shoot the 3,” she said, noting that she made 27 3-pointers last season. “They shoot a lot of 3s, but they also play inside-out, which I think that fits with my game as well.”
Many players who have left York County for Division I athletics over the past decade have later transferred to another school. Miller doesn’t believe her name will be added to that list.
“Right now I have no dreams of playing in the WNBA,” she said. “So I knew I was going to college to get an education and get a job doing what I wanted to do. So that is my main concern. Basketball is just a plus-side of it.”
Animal lover: The real fun for Miller will be in getting a chance to scratch the animal-loving side of her personality, which developed with a big assist from basketball.
“We went down to Tennessee with my AAU team when I was in eighth grade and there was an aquarium there,” she said. “And I just fell in love with it. There were jellyfish and different kinds of sharks. It just made my love for animals just grow.”
Miller hopes to take what she learns at Saint Francis to help others grow to love the outdoors as much as she does.
“I just want to be able to share with future generations the same kinds of things that I got to experience,” she said.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.