For the Miller family, Camden’s anterior cruciate ligament tear in early September was an unfortunate trip down memory lane.
Miller had already scored her second goal of the season and was in the process of firing another shot on net when a defender took her out.
Sitting on the turf, the Douglas High School senior knew her soccer season was in jeopardy after just five games played.
“I definitely knew,” said Miller. “I looked up at my parents and my mom knew immediately. It was tough because it was like here we go again and how can this happen twice?”
Camden’s older sister, Peyton, had also torn her ACL during her senior season in 2019.
Knowing the injury was serious; what her sister had been through began to flood her mind while she was down on the turf.
“The process was way too familiar with my sister. I knew the and the outs. Before that, I thought nothing serious would happen to me,” said Miller. “It’s already happened once in the family. It would be pretty weird for something big to happen again.”
Initially, everything was arduous.
She couldn’t bend her knee or straighten her leg. Miller said she couldn’t even walk.
Only her sister really knew what she was going through.
“The initial process of getting through surgery and everything. Your mind is just trying to get through surgery and then get through the first week and it’s super tough,” said Miller. “Obviously, I could talk to my family and my friends, but they understood, but not really. It was really cool talking to her (Peyton) about it. I didn’t even have to say anything, and she just got it. She just knew.”
(Camden Miller shoots a corner 3-pointer during the Class 5A regional semifinal game against Damonte Ranch in February 2022. Miller went on to have a double double in the regional final with 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals. / Ron Harpin)
The injury sidelined Miller for the remainder of her soccer season and ruled out the entirety of the varsity basketball slate this past winter.
As a junior, Miller was a first team all-region selection in basketball after helping lead the Tigers to their first state tournament appearance in 20 years.
She averaged 13 points per game while shooting 45 percent from the field.
She also led the squad in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
On the soccer field, Miller was coming off an honorable mention selection after her junior season.
Her senior year was supposed to allow her to commit to playing college hoops, potentially before the winter even wrapped up.
It was also a chance to help bring the Tigers to back-to-back state tournament appearances in hoops.
Instead, she was sidelined in early September — mere days into her last year at Douglas High.
In the weeks and months following her ACL tear, Miller started to lose collegiate offers as college coaches showed how fickle the recruiting process can be.
“Up to my ACL, I had closed it down to five (schools),” said Miller. “Then I tore my ACL playing soccer. A few of them were like OK; this isn’t the news we wanted to hear. Some of them were open and some of them weren’t too open.”
Many high school athletes will take a back seat after an injury, especially one that rules them out of competition before the season even starts.
Miller only missed practice when physical therapy appointments overlapped.
“I guess it’s because I had been around for so long that it would feel weird not to be there,” Miller said. “Everyone wanted me there, so it was nice to feel included.”
Her basketball coach, Jason Carter, didn’t want Miller to come in and just settle for a role as team manager. Carter knew she was capable of more.
Miller had spent the previous summer traveling all over the country with West Coast Elite basketball, where she had been playing out of Martinez, Calif.
“I wanted her to know ‘you bring a lot of leadership, if you’re on the floor or not,’” Carter said. “I really wanted her to bring that to practice. I really picked her brain early on.”
Miller was consistently at the front of the bench during games and was always one of the first people on the floor to greet her teammates as they came off the court.
Her initial hesitancy toward an assistant coach role faded quickly.
“The first practice was super tough, like I don’t think I can do this. I went to a couple practices and then I was named captain,” said Miller. “I know I took on a bigger role and I was someone people looked up to, … I felt like I had different, outside perspective on it.”
Douglas High soccer coach Andrew Robles was able to detect that same leadership skillset in Miller.
“It was hard on her because she is that leader on the field,” said Robles. “She felt she couldn’t help us out there, but her leadership off the field really helped us. She was there every game, encouraging the players. I would go back, and bounce ideas off her. Just like a player-coach.”
(Camden Miller turns up field during a home game against Bishop Manogue in the fall of 2023. Miller had two goals and an assist through five games before her season was cut short with a torn ACL. / Ron Harpin)
One foot in front of the other
Miller boasts an astounding 4.6 GPA and is one of the top students in her class.
Her humble but passionate approach has kept her involved outside of athletics as well.
She is the president of the Block D Club at Douglas High, in which student athletes organize various fundraising efforts in the community.
Miller has been a two-year member of the National Honor Society and is involved in numerous other areas both at school and through her church.
One of the most difficult parts for Miller had been coming to terms with who she was as a person outside of athletics.
“Initially, it was really tough. It felt like my world crumbled, like I can’t catch a break. It took a couple weeks of being down,” said Miller. “In a way, it was easier to take up all the other roles I had. I had been busy for so long that I could focus on something else. I could take up leadership in a different aspect — not just on the court or on the field.”
Her college recruitment still remains a top priority and Miller says she appreciates having time on her side.
She’s had the ability to weigh her options and is confident she will find the fit that works best for her.
Another preference for Miller is being able to go to school in Southern California, which would allow her to be closer to her older sister.
Trusting it’ll work out is always easier said than done, but Miller pushed herself into new opportunities despite her injury.
After missing out on her freshman season due to the coronavirus outbreak, not taking moments for granted has been a big lesson in her life.
As Miller wraps up her physical therapy and tries to round her way back to feeling 100 percent, her passion for the game of basketball hasn’t faded.
“Just weighing out all the options and the pros and cons of everything. I’ll definitely play,” stated Miller. “Whether I walk on or commit, my love for the game definitely wants to keep me on the court.”
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