Coming into her rookie season after being selected second overall by the Minnesota Lynx in the 2023 WNBA Draft, Diamond Miller knew her first season as a professional was going to be a learning process.
Not only has Miller had to learn a new system with a new team and new teammates, but she’s had to do it in a new league that has games coming at you fast while going up against the top women’s basketball players in the world on the other end of the court.
Miller admitted her rookie campaign has been a roller coaster, one that has been filled with learning how to be consistent night in and night out while continuing to develop in pursuit of greatness.
And she’s not worried about herself, her personal accolades or even if she could win Rookie of the Year in 2023. She’s more worried about how she can help her team, both this season in beyond, and focusing more about the name on the front of her jersey rather than the name on the back.
“I feel like I’ve had a weird roller coaster, but not roller-coaster season,” Miller said on the Hitting the Hardwood Podcast with Mitchell Hansen. “Just constantly developing is something that I really focus on and getting better. I’m grinding, I’m working hard, getting stronger and trying to get better on the basketball court. ... I’m enjoying the process, that’s for sure.”
From the moment Miller stepped off the WNBA Draft stage and joined the Lynx for her rookie camping, the learning began and it came at the 22-year-old fast.
Miller handled that with stride over training camp, the preseason and over her first handful of games in the regular season. Then, on May 30, she suffered an ankle injury against the Dallas Wings that put her rookie year on pause and sidelined her for nearly a month.
“Obviously getting injured is not what I predicted for my rookie year, it’s not something probably anybody predicts,” Miller said. “When I went down, it actually hurt me a little bit because I felt like I was just starting to understand the concept of what the team wanted me to do, and then I got hurt. That was kind of a bummer.”
Although that injury was an unfortunate occurrence for Miller and the Lynx as they were still trying to figure things out early on in the regular season while at the bottom of the WNBA standings, it allowed the rookie to take a step back, learn the system and the WNBA game more, and view the game from a different lens.
“Watching the game from a different lens was really helpful for me. I got to see how I could contribute without being physically on the court,” Miller said. “Just seeing the game from a different perspective is something you don’t want obviously, but sometimes it’s something that you need. It was kind of a blessing in disguise, to be honest.”
After missing that neat-month span, Miller returned to the court a different player. Notably adding more aspects to her game or focusing on those areas more than she had previously. She appeared to be more of an all-around player than just a month prior, which is proof of her desire and willingness to learn, be coached and want to help her team in anyway possible.
But she’s not where she wants to be yet, Miller admitted. She wants to work on her catch-and-shoot game more, along with shooting the three more and just being more consistent than she feels like she is currently.
“Being able to do what you do every night, it’s really impressive for the ladies that can do it. Obviously, I’m not there yet,” Miller said. “I really want to get to that point where I’m just consistent every night. Where every night, you know what I’m going to bring to the table. That is really exciting. That’s something I realized is so important in the W is the consistency levels, because you play so many games but that’s not an excuse not to be consistent.”
Pursuit of Greatness
The learning process has been one of ups and downs for Miller as her rookie season inches closer to a conclusion. Some days she has that “I made it” moment against the biggest stars in the league, and other days she feels like she’s back to square one.
But that’s all part of the process as a rookie, and Miller expected that and understands it’s all part of the process.
“I knew that was going to be an adjustment. Overall, I feel like the adjustment has been challenging, but not impossible,” she said. “Some days, I might be confused, but other days, I’m like ‘okay, I get it, I got it.’ It’s just kind that balance that I’m still focusing on. The balance of getting better, but also realizing that I have certain skills that I could use and be confident.”
With a handful of games to play in the regular season, Miller ranks third on the Lynx in scoring and is one of the top rookies in the league statistically this year, even earning Rookie of the Month honors in July for her performance. And on more occasions as the season has progressed, Miller has become more confident in her ability to go toe-for-toe with some of the top players in the league.
“I think there were moments when we played certain teams, and I feel like I could compete strongly with really talented players from different teams,” Miller admitted. “That’s when I’m like ‘okay, I feel like I’m in the WNBA’.”
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Miller isn’t just her ability and development we’ve seen on the court, but the way she carries herself in the locker room and off the court while focusing on doing whatever she can to help the Lynx as a team.
“[Awards and accolades] are not something that really excites me, what excites me is my development. Outside things like trophies and stuff, that stuff really doesn’t excite me,” she said. “It’s when I grind every day, that excites me. When I finally hit five threes in a row in a workout, that stuff excites me more than a trophy.
“Kudos to whoever wins [Rookie of the Year]. I’m happy if it’s me, and if it’s not me, I’m still going to be happy because at the end of the day, it’s me versus me, no matter what.”
Miller is just a rookie; she’s just 22 years old. Yet she’s already grown in front of our eyes over the last four months and has grown her game from when she first stepped on a WNBA court in May.
But she wants to be great, she wants to continue to work on her game to not just help the Lynx this season, but for many years to come as a foundational piece of the franchise.
“I think it’s all going to come together, and I’m still a rookie so it’s just exciting to know that I have so much potential,” Miller said. “I’m very diverse. I have a lot that I can do, now there’s more details and sharpening up all the edges.”
Listen to the Full Podcast
Hear the entire Hitting the Hardwood podcast with Diamond Miller, including her thoughts on her rookie season, some of the top moments of the year to this point, how her production and performance has changed since she entered the WNBA, what she thinks she needs to continue to work on, the potential for the Lynx this season and beyond and more.