BOULDER, Colo. — Some may say Quay Miller “has that dog in her” based on the way she plays basketball.
Hard working, tough, never-say-die-attitude — all these attributes apply to Miller. But rather than a dog, she’d prefer to call it a "lion mentality."
When Miller transferred to University of Colorado Boulder from the University of Washington two years ago, she didn’t waltz in like she owned the place. She dedicated herself to team success, and she ended up winning 6th Person of the Year in the Pac-12 because of that selflessness.
Remaining team-first, Miller — now a senior — is being a little more assertive. She was called upon by her head coach to exercise her roar.
“[During the] first month of practice, we went to Quay and said, 'We need something from you,'” said Buffs head coach JR Payne. “She said, ‘OK what do you need?’ We said, 'Our gym is too quiet right now. We need a voice. We’re missing the loud voices.'”
Leadership didn’t sprout up overnight, and Miller didn’t heat it up in the microwave like popcorn. It took time to find her voice, but when she did, the style matched her personality.
“You make people understand that it’s coming from a place of love,” said Miller. “[It’s] not just me having the mentality that I’m better than you guys. I was in their shoes, I’m in their shoes, and we’re all in this together.”
Miller’s running mate, fellow senior Jaylyn Sherrod, sees her softer side.
“Quay’s just got a bubbly personality,” said Sherrod. “She’s always laughing, joking, smiling.”
As Miller's leadership flourished, so did her play on the court. She was named a top 10 finalist for the Lisa Leslie Award, given to college basketball’s best female center.
“[Being a finalist] helps with my confidence,” said Miller. “I really try not to pay too much attention to all of it because I don’t want it to affect me in any way. I just try to stay focused on what’s in front of me.”
Even with all eyes on her, Miller prefers to focus on what the Buffs can accomplish as a group.
“It’s easy to get caught up when everyone’s talking about, ‘I’m on this list,’” said Miller. “When I don’t live up to those expectations, it can mess with your mind.”
Confidence is such a fragile concept. What makes these Buffs so special is that their confidence is experienced communally – not alone.
“I’m definitely confident because I surround myself with people who I pour into that also pour into me,” said Miller. “It’s never like, ‘Oh I’m not good enough.’ It’s just, 'I need to be consistent in what I do so I can be a great player.'”
Miller is the talisman for this CU group that continues to prove they can hang with anybody come tournament time.
“I think [Miller] embodies everything that we value: toughness, hard work, discipline, focus, being a great teammate, supporting each other,” said Payne. “She epitomizes all of those things.”
“She’s a great person and I’m glad to be her teammate,” said Sherrod.
The Buffs wrap up the regular season at the end of February, then it’s onto the Pac-12 Tournament. From there, based on their current projection, they won’t have to worry about any sort of bubble talk. They’re an easy "in" for the NCAA Tournament.