November 21, 2021
Chronicles of the Women’s Drew League: Michelle Miller
Michelle Miller was a standout at Princeton. Now, as she finishes medical school at UCLA, she can be found getting buckets at the Women's Drew League.
Michelle Miller may not have gone on to play professional basketball after her college career at Princeton. But as she finishes up medical school at UCLA, she can still be found getting buckets every Sunday afternoon at Drew Middle School in Los Angeles.
Miller is just one of several former Division I and overseas professional talent that suits up every weekend at the Women’s Drew League. The league may not be as widely known as its male counterpart. But it boasts high-level competition with a spattering of WNBA players over the years.
Playing on Team Runnit, Miller plays alongside a few other former Division I players. There was no season last fall due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But in 2019, Runnit won the league championship and Miller was named the game MVP.
For many players like Miller, the Women’s Drew has given them an outlet to continue playing long after their college days are over. There are so few professional opportunities for women’s basketball players. And the league gives them the chance to stay in shape and still go up against legit competition.
“Obviously the men’s side of the Drew League has gotten really big, really famous. I think it’s really great that Nike has started sponsoring us as well. My first year playing here we didn’t have that. I feel like it kind of grew a little bit getting that Nike sponsorship,” Miller told The Next. “It’s fun to play with and against a lot of the girls I played against in club growing up and in college. Some of us are back here still playing. It’s really nice to have a high-level women’s league.”
Miller grew up in Southern California and attended Pasadena Polytechnic High School. She was considered a three-star prospect by ESPN’s high school ranking page HoopGurlz. She finished her high school career as one of the most highly decorated players in the state.
She helped lead the Panthers to the Prep League championship during all four of her high school years. She is currently second all-time on the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section career points list, ahead of Diana Taurasi and Lisa Leslie and behind only Cheryl Miller with 3,331 points. She averaged 30.6 points per game over her high school career.
She also played AAU basketball with Cal Storm, one of the top club basketball programs on the West Coast. She played with several of her Runnit teammates on Cal Storm’s Team Taurasi and she believes it helped get her ready for the college level.
“I played for Team Taurasi my last year with Coach George Quintero. I think he’s a phenomenal coach,” Miller said. “I think half of our team at some point played for Cal Storm. Cal Storm plays at a high level at Nike tournaments and that definitely helps prepare you. That kind of exposure, especially for me going to a small high school, really prepared me for college.”
Miller left Southern California and ended up on the other side of the country to play college basketball at Princeton in the Ivy League. Over the last couple of years, a good number of LA-area players have committed to Ivy League schools.
Currently, there’s Brown’s Chantal Nadia from Santa Monica High School (Santa Monica, CA), Cornell’s Jada Davis from The Bishop’s School (San Diego, CA), Dartmouth’s Kaiyah Corona from Windward High School (Los Angeles, CA), Penn’s Kayla Padilla from Bishop Montgomery High School (Torrance, CA) and Princeton’s Kaitlyn Chen from Flintridge Prep (La Canada Flintridge).
Miller helped steer Chen to Princeton and she believes that more players should consider Ivy League schools as a potential post-high school destination. She looks at the success of Bella Alarie, who was a top-five pick in the 2020 WNBA draft, as proof that the Ivy League is starting to get more recognition.
“I feel like everyone out here wants to go to a DI and Pac-12 school, but if you’re in the Pac-12 and in the middle of the Pac-12, you’re not going to get to go to the tournament. But if you win the Ivy League, you’re in the tournament,” Miller said. “There’s definitely solid competition within the league. I think it’s still continuing to grow. I definitely think with some of the young talent that’s coming in, there’s some pretty good young players now.”
At Princeton, Miller steadily improved every year she was there. She made an immediate impact as a freshman, and as a sophomore, she was a two-time Ivy League Player of the Week. As a junior, she was named an All-Ivy League Honorable Mention and finally as a senior she made it to the All-Ivy League First Team.
She was on two Ivy League championship teams and was part of a Tigers squad that went 30-0 in the regular season. As a senior, she averaged 13.7 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting from the field and 42.6 percent shooting from 3-point range, 5.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
And despite not going on to play pro basketball at any level, Miller can still be found giving opponents buckets at the Women’s Drew. The league has actually been around for quite some time, but it hasn’t had a lot of media coverage and still doesn’t, save for a small spattering of photographers here and there.
For Miller, media support is crucial for the league and for women’s basketball, in general, to continue to grow.
“To get the kind of media support and the people who do the photography, it’s just important to keep growing the women’s game,” Miller said. “It can be hard, honestly, to find a high-level women’s league. There’s a million men’s adult leagues; there are not a million women’s leagues. It’s really nice to have a really competitive one to play in.”