Changing of the Guard

This season has Zoie Miller stepping up to bring a new dynamic to the team after guard Janeicia Neely has graduated.


Guard Zoie Miller, mass communication sophomore, takes warm up shots at halftime of their game versus Dillard on Dec. 5, 2015.

Kameron Hay

With the star players, guards Janeicia Neely and Meghan Whitaker, having graduated in May, Loyola’s women’s basketball team will have to look to a new player to keep up with last years  historic season with the team winning a school record of 27 games.

According to Kelli Kennedy, head coach of the women’s basketball program, with the graduation of both players there have been questions of whether the team can maintain the same level of success and continue to be a strong program going forward.

“She (Neely) was such an impactful player while she was here, she did so much for us on both ends of the floor and not to mention the leadership she provided us off the court. Those are all things that are just so hard to replace,” Kennedy said.

However, the team may have found a qualified replacement in that of Zoie Miller, sophomore guard.

Miller, a mass communication sophomore from Frisco, Texas, saw limited to no playing time as a freshman and battled with losing her confidence as the season went on last year. Amidst great team success, her freshman year was a tough transition and she has used that as motivation to be better this season.

“It was hard coming in being the youngest player on the team, so I would always have to be a step ahead, but I got used to it and started working harder. I was really shocked because coach limited my game but I had to remain humble and keep working,” Miller said.

Coach Kennedy believes that Miller’s struggles last season were mainly because she was a freshman and there are growing pains.

“Freshman year is really hard for everybody and I think Zoie went through the transition of really sitting and watching which she wasn’t used to. She was behind a great player and learned the game and now she has an opportunity to get out there and make an impact,” Kennedy said.

This past off-season, Miller knew she had to get stronger and be counted on to make plays when asked of her and those were her points of emphasis this off-season.

“I just worked on finishing better, that was a big part of it, and knocking down easy shots, also feeding my teammates the ball so they can get better shots,” Miller said.

The improvements Miller has made in her game have not only been obvious in the box score, with her leading the team in assists with 4.4 per game, but also to her teammates.

Caroline Gonzalez, junior forward, said that the confidence Miller has on the court has been noticeably different from her freshman season.

“Zoie came in after the summer and she was a completely different player. Last year she seemed to be a little hesitant with her game, this year she seems to have a lot more confidence. Her ball handling has significantly improved, as well as her defense and leadership. I think Zoie is a great example of growing into your game and she has brought a lot to the team this year,” Gonzalez said.

The defense has been the key to Miller’s game this season, she also leads the team in steals with 14 this season which matches her total from a year ago, which has been contagious to the rest of her team according to junior guard, Kylah Jones.

“Zoie brings defensive intensity and is a great on ball defender, she is quick and can read passing lanes and is very smart. We feed off of her defensive intensity,” Jones said.

Jones has also stepped into an increased role on the team this year, joining Miller in the starting backcourt after being the first guard off of the bench last season as a sophomore as well as her freshman campaign. She said believes that the new starting backcourt should be able to step up and pick up right where Neely and Whitaker left off.

“I feel like me and Zoie have the potential to play up to Meghan and Janeicia’s caliber and abilities, but we have to continue to work and prove ourselves,” Jones said.

Miller said she doesn’t feel any pressure to follow in Neely’s footsteps and believes that the team can grow into collectively filling her void.

“All together, we all bring something to the team and we are all getting better. We lost a lot in one player but are gaining a lof from multiple players this year,” Miller said.

But over the course of her Loyola career Miller simply just wants to get better as a player.

“I want to become a better leader, coach stays on me about that about being more vocal. Also just a better player and shooter and just elevate my game,” Miller said.