By Daniel Shirley
For as long as she can remember, Taylor Mills had been on the basketball court, and she never had been away from the game for an extended period of time.
That all changed last season for the Kennesaw State freshman.
Mills was forced to redshirt last season as she battled with plantar fasciitis – in both feet -- taking her away from the game she loves and is so talented at playing.
She’s making up for lost time this season.
Mills and the Lady Owls knocked off North Florida 51-49 on Thursday in the first round of the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament. Mills led the Owls with 16 points as Kennesaw State earned its first-ever tournament win.
“It was really tough because for five months I couldn’t do any activity really,” Mills said of last year. “But I think it really helped me grow as a player. I got to see a different side of the game. I got to sit on the bench and see the game from over there and learn from that.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever had to sit, really. Usually I’ve been playing so much so I had to make the best of sitting and watching.”
Mills learned her lessons well, and her long list of individual honors this season shows that.
Mills was named the conference’s freshman of the year, and she was also named to the conference’s all-academic team.
She is the only Lady Owls player to play in and start all 30 games this season, leading Kennesaw State in points scored (12.3 per game), assists (4.3), steals (2.2) and minutes played (38.4). So
the time away made her appreciate the game more than before, right?
“It made me appreciate my health,” she said with a laugh. “I had plantar fasciitis in both feet, actually still do. But we’re working on it.”
Mills and her teammates are still working this season after a big comeback against North Florida.
The Lady Owls (14-16) trailed 44-33 with 7:47 left but outscored North Florida 18-5 the rest of the way. Trailing 48-47, Mills scored after a steal, and she later hit two fouls shots after being fouled on a three-point attempt with two seconds left for the final margin.
“We’ve done that a lot this year; we’ve gotten down and kept fighting and trying to do whatever we have to do to get back in the game. That’s a credit to our team that we never give up,” Mills said. “We’ve had a lot of adversity, but we never let down and just keep working.”
The same can be said for Mills after last year.
Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon. Follow complete coverage of the Atlantic Sun tournament at www.macon.com/mercer and follow Daniel at @DM_Shirley for live updates throughout the tournament.