Hiland’s Aila Miller signs to play hoops at Akron U

Hiland’s Aila Miller signs to play hoops at Akron U

Image Credit: Dave Mast

The big 5-0.

When Aila Miller signed her letter of intent to play college hoops at Akron University on Wednesday, Nov. 10 at the Perry Reese Community Center at Hiland High School, she became the 50th Lady Hawks player in program history to sign to play collegiately. Not only that, but she also earned a full ride to play for the Zips and was elated to sign. However, she was just as ready to talk about her upcoming season, which will see her taking on a central role after playing in the shadow of last season’s talented state championship senior class.

“I still remember when Akron offered me a full scholarship. I didn’t know what to say,” Miller said.

Miller’s signing makes this the first mother-daughter tandem in the Hiland program to receive scholarships to play college ball. Her mother Jill (Yoder) Miller was a stellar four-year starter from 1997-2000 and earned a scholarship to play at Wheeling Jesuit.

“I owe my mom a lot. She has helped me the whole way, and I really look up to her,” Miller said of her mother.

Last season saw Miller suffer a devastating concussion that kept her from playing much of the year. When she did return, it took her time to reacclimate herself and regain that tough, aggressive inside play she exhibited the past two seasons. However, when it mattered the most at the end of the season, she seemed to return to form and played a key role in helping Hiland earn its sixth state title.

“It’s been a rough ride,” Miller said. “I went through the head injury, and it was rough getting back on track, but I’ve made it, and I thank my family and teammates for helping me get where I am. They’ve helped me get through adversity.”

Miller said playing in the Hiland program has helped prepare her for the rigors of college play, and she is excited about making the transition. She said playing in the post with Zoe Miller and Kelsey Swihart the past couple of seasons also has been a time to learn from two players who also have gone on to play collegiately.

While coming up as a youngster in the Hiland program, Miller was strictly a post player who was a rebounding machine when healthy. However, she has added an outside presence to her game that should translate well to the college level, as well as make it very difficult for people to guard her this season.

“I want to be an all-around player,” Miller said. “I think coach Mishler has really helped me become more of an all-around player this summer, and I am excited to get this season started.”

Mishler said watching Miller progress has been something to witness this summer, noting the past seven months she has begun to recognize her full potential.

“She has really come into her own, and I think she is going to have a terrific season,” Mishler said of Miller. “Her career is great to show younger kids that if you’re doing the right things and work hard, you’re going to have opportunities to shine. She has waited behind a talented senior group, and now it is her turn to step into the spotlight and be the leader. I think having to play a role behind that group of seniors has made her better and helped her appreciate where she has gotten now. We’ve seen so much growth in her game and her confidence.”

Longtime Hiland head coach Dave Schlabach, who retired after last season, has watched Miller come through the program and said Miller’s talent has always been evident.

“I’m very proud of Aila,” said Schlabach, who also coached Jill during her career. “I think she is really going to surprise people. She was a great player and filled a role last year, but this is her team to take over now, and I am excited to watch her continue to grow. I think she will be one of the most exciting players in the state because she has improved her perimeter play and ball-handling skills that have taken her to a whole new level.”

Miller said she will pursue a degree in child development in her studies at Akron.