- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

Washington Mystics guard Coco Miller has elevated her game while star forward Chamique Holdsclaw sits out.

In the two games the Mystics (2-3) have played without Holdsclaw, Miller has led the team in scoring. The 5-foot-10 guard is the team’s best shooter (47.2 percent) and is second on the team in scoring at 12.4 points.

Miller, named the WNBA’s most improved player last season, will try to continue her hot shooting when the Mystics play the Connecticut Sun (3-2) tonight at the Mohegan Sun casino in the first of back-to-back games. Tomorrow, the Mystics play host to the Detroit Shock.

The Mystics needed somebody when Holdsclaw went down with a strained right hamstring, and the sweet-shooting Miller has answered the call.

“With ‘Mique out of the lineup, someone has got to step up, and I’m just trying to do everything I can to help,” Miller said. “I want to contribute any way I can, if that means scoring, rebounding or whatever.”

In the Mystics’ 63-53 loss last Friday to the Cleveland Rockers, Miller was the only starter who shot the ball competently, making seven of 11 shots for a game-high 15 points. In Tuesday’s 79-72 victory over the San Antonio Silver Stars, Miller was deadly again, scoring a game-high 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting.

“She was the one that stepped up first and got us going,” Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said of Miller’s performance against San Antonio.

Miller is an example of what hard work and determination can do. The Mystics drafted Miller out of Georgia with the ninth overall pick in the 2001 WNBA Draft, but then-coach Tom Maher refused to play Miller because veteran Nikki McCray was holding down the Mystics’ shooting guard spot.

Miller played 137 minutes her rookie season. Because Maher didn’t play her, fans and media quickly labeled Miller a bust.

“It was extremely difficult; it was very difficult,” Miller said about the lack of playing time her rookie season. “I’m a person who hates to lose, I’m very competitive and it was probably the most difficult thing that I’ve ever had to go through. I worked hard in the offseason so I could make sure that never happened again.”

Stanley’s first move when she took over the Mystics last season was to start Miller, who responded by averaging 9.3 points and shooting 37.5 percent on 3-pointers. With Miller starting, the Mystics posted the first winning season (17-15) in team history.

“Coco is a scorer — that’s what she does,” Stanley said. “She’s been in a situation now, this being her second year [starting], where she’s had the freedom to just be herself, that’s helped her. She’s explosive, she knows how to score, and she works hard at it and that’s what she does well.”

In college, Miller was overshadowed by her identical twin sister Kelly, who was the second overall pick in the 2001 WNBA Draft and plays for the Charlotte Sting. Coco was perceived as the “other twin” because her sister went so high in the draft, but now Kelly comes off the bench for the Sting while Coco is starting and scoring in the nation’s capital.

“When it comes to twins, there’s always one that people will say is better than the other one,” Coco said. “She was rated a little bit higher, but that didn’t bother me because those are people’s opinions and I don’t really take offense to that.”

Note — After first returns in WNBA All-Star balloting, Holdsclaw is second among the Eastern Conference forwards with 14,783 votes. Holdsclaw, who was last season’s leading vote-getter, trails Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings (15,674). The game will be in New York on July12. The Mystics’ Stacey Dales-Schuman is fifth among the guards with 5,408 votes.

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