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Injury sidelines Pirate standout

Published Sep. 29, 2005

Boca Ciega basketball star Tia Miller will have surgery on her torn ACL and won't return until at least December.

Tia Miller drove for the basket as she had done thousands of times before. She landed on her right foot as she had done thousands of times before.

This time, though, Miller said she felt something she had never felt before.

"I felt my knee shift," the 6-foot-2 Boca Ciega senior said. "I hit the ground and couldn't get back up."

Miller, who All-Star Girls Report publisher Mike White called the top rebounding power forward in the country, tore her anterior cruciate ligament and damaged some cartilage.

Boca Ciega coach Harry Elifson said Miller will have surgery Aug. 20 and is not expected to play until at least December. He said she is waiting for the swelling to go down before surgery and will start therapy on the leg muscles today to hopefully shorten the post-operation rehabilitation.

The injury occurred July 26 during a Keswick Summer League game.

"She's a very strong person, and I expect her to be back as soon as possible," Elifson said. "But we're still going to be cautious. We don't expect this to get fixed just for high school and college. We expect her to be playing until she is 35. We want to be selfish and get her back, but she has such a bright future, we want to do what's best for her."

Elifson said Miller's future will play out at one of seven colleges: Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, North Carolina, Old Dominion or Virginia.

Miller, who has a 2.8 grade point average and is waiting on her SAT score, said coaches from each school have called to offer support, as have former players from those schools who have undergone the same surgery.

"They told me the physical therapy will be hard and you have to prepare yourself for that," Miller said. "They feel I can do it. I know I'll be back stronger than what I was in my junior year. I'm just taking it step by step, taking it slow."

She has done anything but on the court.

Miller, who averaged 20.2 points and 12 rebounds last season, is a two-time Times All-Suncoast and a three-time All-Pinellas first-teamer.

She was a Class 5A first-teamer, and All-Star Girls Report ranks her as one of the top 15 players in the country.

Quite a blow to any program, but Elifson said, "We still have four goals: PCAC, district, regional and state. Those goals will not change. We just have to have our seniors step up."

Those include starters Ebony Smith and Robin Webb at forward and Jacque Shirley and Velisaty Brown at guard.

"We always said we were a team," Elifson said. "This will prove we're a team and make a positive out of the unfortunate thing that's happened."