Diamond Miller has shed her struggles to become a key bench piece for Maryland basketball

Guard Diamond Miller drives the lane in Maryland women's basketball's 88-45 win over Purdue on Feb. 25, 2020. (Gabby Baniqued/The Diamondback)

Guard Diamond Miller broke out two Euro-step layups in the first quarter of Maryland women’s basketball’s win over Purdue. One was on a drive from the top of the key while the other came in transition, an area she’s struggled to score in at times throughout her freshman campaign.

But in the Terps’ past three games, the Somerset, New Jersey, native looks more polished. She used to narrowly miss shots around the rim, driving to the rack with reckless abandon.

Now she’s taking her time, taking what the defense gives her and using her length to step around defenders and finish with more control. She’s become an impact player off the bench for the Terps and is fresh off her first three-game stretch of 10-plus points this season.

“I can definitely see her growth. She’s definitely being more patient, reading the floor, knowing when to attack, knowing when to pass, and you can see her just being more comfortable now,” forward Kaila Charles said. “I’m proud of how she’s playing and we’re going to need her to continue that.”

[Read more: When Maryland women’s basketball is at its best, Stephanie Jones plays “mean”]

Miller was the second-highest ranked recruit of Maryland’s freshman class behind guard Ashley Owusu coming into the season. At 6 feet, 3 inches, she’s tied for the team’s third-tallest player — despite being primarily on the perimeter.

While Owusu got off to a hot start this season, Miller was inefficient in her first three career games as a starter. Miller shot just 28.6 percent from the field and moved to the bench after going scoreless in a narrow win at James Madison on Nov. 13.

“I think a lot of us just remind her to slow down, just play your game, don’t be too anxious, don’t rush, just calm down,” Charles said. “A lot of us reiterated that, coaches — just telling her to just relax, take a deep breath and be comfortable because she has all the tools, she knows what to do, but sometimes she just gets really anxious.”

Her erratic play seeped into Maryland’s early conference schedule, but in the Terps’ 106-69 win at Penn State on Feb. 16, Miller’s activity on both ends helped keep a struggling Terps squad afloat after a poor first half.

Her 16 points in the contest were her highest in conference play and her first double-digit offensive effort in four games to that point. Since then, she’s been significantly more aggressive when on the floor, improving her efficiency in the process.

[Read more: Seniors shine on Senior Night as Maryland women’s basketball tops Purdue, 88-45]

In each of the past three games, she’s hit a triple, executed a Euro step and run the floor for easy fastbreak buckets.

Miller’s role is now clearly defined. She’s flourishing on offense while displaying growth and maturity.

“I think the game is definitely slowing down. I’m just taking every opportunity and stepping onto the court and playing as hard as I can,” Miller said. “I’m just being focused and making layups. My team needs me, so bringing in those extra points to just help my team win the game.”

Her defense has also taken a step forward in recent weeks. Although guard Blair Watson typically is the head of the team’s 1-2-2 press defense, Miller has filled in admirably when Watson is off the floor, playing her best defensive game of the season against the Boilermakers, according to coach Brenda Frese.

As Miller has improved on that end, the Terps haven’t been quite as reliant on Watson to fluster other point guards. Miller’s increased understanding of the defensive scheme, coupled with Watson’s advice about improving her angles, has meant Miller’s timing is better and her anticipation is more calculated.

“She’s been remarkable. She’s so long and athletic and [has a] high motor,” Frese said. “For us to kind of have a tandem head between Blair and Diamond, you allow Blair to take some minutes to rest and then Diamond comes in full force.”

Miller is showing what made her one of the best players in her class coming out of high school, and her vast development in just a few months has Frese and her teammates excited about what type of player she can be in the future.

With the postseason looming, though, Frese wants to see Miller continue to play with confidence and improve her conditioning. Frese says Miller becomes tired “fairly quickly” because of how hard she plays, and with the Big Ten tournament’s intense format, Miller will hope to bolster her stamina.

With only seven players earning significant minutes, Maryland needs its depth to step up consistently — as it often has over the team’s 13-game winning streak. With her strong play and heightened confidence, Miller will be essential off the bench for the Terps.

“I think [the bench is] really excited and prepared,” Miller said. “We need all nine players to win, to go far in the tournament, wherever we want to go, so just being ready when our number is called and performing for coach.”

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