The leadership role that Zoria Miller slid so seamlessly into, is far from familiar to the Thompson High junior. Obviously, she does a good job masking the fact that serving as a team leader is fairly new.
“I don’t know (where it comes from),” Miller said with a laugh. “I guess when you get pushed and nudged and you see no one else is taking on the leadership role, fully, you have to stick your foot in and get in there. Sometimes you just have to take that role.”
Truth is, she’s looked like a natural while helping a very young Thompson High roster transform from a struggling group early into the season to a team showing some veteran qualities in the past several weeks. On Wednesday, the Lady Warriors have the opportunity to secure a spot in the AHSAA Class 7A Regionals with a strong showing in Area 5 play. Thompson begins play in the Area 5 Tournament with a game against Tuscaloosa County on 4:30 p.m. at Hoover High. The winner will most likely get a matchup with area champion Hoover in Friday’s championship game.
For the Lady Warriors, the focus is squarely on Tuscaloosa County, which split a pair of games against Thompson this season.
“Get to regional, that’s the goal, we’re taking it one step at a time,” Miller said.
As usual, Miller will play an important role in chasing that goal and not just with her verbal leadership. At 5-foot-7, Miller has been asked by Thompson head coach JoVanka Ward to play on the inside and the outside. There are times when she’s outside, facing the quickness of opposing backcourts. Other times, she is asked to battle it out inside, mostly against taller opponents.
“It’s coaching, having great coaches,” Miller said. “Coach (Tamika) Dukes, who works with me in the post, tells me you got to front them, you can’t stay behind the big girls. Coach Ward and Coach Dukes, they help me transition. You got to be quick with the guards and make sure you’re in the right position, so you don’t foul. It’s all about coaching and practice and getting me right.”
Miller is also a versatile scorer on the other end, which comes with a lot of years of practice.
“I’ve been playing for a long time – city leagues, middle school, high school,” Miller said.
Perhaps the only year took off, since first picking up a basketball as a youngster, came when she moved with her family to Alabaster. Miller, who grew up in Millry, Alabama, was in 8th grade when she moved. She said the team was already set, so she sat out the year. That was far from her only adjustment.
“I came from a class of maybe 90 kids, now, I’m in class pushing 500,” Miller said. “It was a little adjustment but it was a nice one. Throughout life, you’re going to have trials. Coming from playing with the same people my whole life and then having to adjust to a whole different team and a coach with different standards, it helped me grow as a person.”
Now, like any good leader, she’s using that growth to help here teammates grow as players.