More than just basketball
For someone who wasn't even sure she wanted to play basketball in college, senior Heather Miller has made an indelible mark on the college's record books.
The Sarasota, Fla., native ended her final year as a Panther by being named to the USA South All-Conference Team and was the second-highest scorer in the conference. She led her team in scoring and set a new single-season record with 87 steals and 18.5 points averaged per game. She has 1,545 career points and 194 career 3-point shots.
Panther fans were happy she decided to play, and so is Heather.
"It's so much more than just basketball," she says. "There are the friends I've made and the family I feel like I have. There is a support system there for me, willing to do anything for me. I really have a passion for it."
Heather says her favorite memory as a Panther goes back to her junior year.
"We were playing Piedmont last year to go to the conference finals, and we weren't supposed to win. But we did. That was so much fun."
This year's season didn't end as well, and the loss still stings.
"I am so competitive and I hate to lose, so it was hard to go out that way. I try not to think about it a lot. But I've learned that the first and the last games are just games – it's what happens between them that is important. We accomplished so much as a team, and I'm very proud of that."
Heather's focus is solely on her studies as graduation approaches. She is a psychology major and wants to be a child therapist.
"I have a heart for children," she says. "I originally came to school to be a teacher, and I wanted to work with younger children. But I took 'Intro to Psychology' and fell in love with it."
A youth counselor works with children who may have problems with parents, addiction, depression, neglect or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Heather says she can relate to them and feels their pain.
"These children are hurting, and a lot of times, it's not their fault," she says. "They don't know how to react to the situations they've gone through. I want to be there to help them walk through that, help them overcome some of the struggles they've been through. My heart goes out to the ones who fall between the cracks."
But she knows it won't always be easy.
"I want to do so much for them, and I can only do so much," she says. "Realizing that was more difficult than I had anticipated."
Heather says she's had friends who have struggled, and helping them has impacted her.
"I've become a better person because of it," she says. "I know it's possible to get through these things. I know it is hard and at first, minutes feel like hours and days feel like years. I know it takes a lot of effort, but I want to be there to encourage them and get them through it.
"I want them to know that somebody has faith in them, somebody does care."