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Mirror, Mirror Who has the fairest backcourt of all? Georgia, whose identical twin guards, Coco and Kelly Miller, are double trouble for opponents

Nov. 15, 1999
Nov. 15, 1999

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Nov. 15, 1999

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College Basketball 1999

Mirror, Mirror Who has the fairest backcourt of all? Georgia, whose identical twin guards, Coco and Kelly Miller, are double trouble for opponents

Andy Landers, the coach of Georgia's women's basketball team,
was watching his starting guards, Coco and Kelly Miller,
practice in Stegeman Coliseum in 1997. Striding downcourt side
by side in identical red uniforms, wearing identical white knee
pads and sporting identical brown ponytails, the identical twins
looked, as usual, like matched thoroughbreds. They were
stationed perhaps 50 feet apart when Landers heard one mumble to
the other in a language only they could understand. He recalls
Kelly (or was that Coco?) whispering, "Babadep shalaka
glibbidyglob." He recalls Coco (or was it Kelly?), without so
much as a sidelong glance, whispering back something like,
"Shalalal billabilla glibbidyglub." Then one sister sprinted to
the hoop while the other flicked a perfect no-look pass to her.

This is an article from the Nov. 15, 1999 issue

"It was almost telepathic," says Landers, who still recalls the
fleeting feeling of vertigo he experienced. "No actual words were
spoken, no signals exchanged. Kelly and Coco have been playing
together for so long that they can sense each other's presence on
the floor. They've trained themselves to communicate in ways the
rest of us can't."

Lady Bulldogs opponents have been seeing double and hearing
double-talk for two seasons now. In their freshman year the
Millers averaged 33.5 points between them as Georgia won 17
games. Kelly led the Lady Bulldogs in assists, steals and scoring
while Coco set the school single-game women's record with 45
points against Charleston Southern. "Separately they'd light a
fire under us; together they'd set us ablaze," says sophomore
teammate Tawana McDonald. "With five minutes to play they'd still
be playing like it's the opening tip: diving, sliding and picking
up the intensity."

That intensity carried Georgia to a 27-7 record and a Final Four
berth last season, and now the 5'10" Millers are being touted as
a pair without peer, the most synchronized backcourt in NCAA
history. At times Kelly and Coco seem to be halves of a single
personality. They wear similar clothes, smile the same half-smile
and, with the exception of a renegade freckle here and there,
look exactly alike. They even share the same idiosyncrasies. On
team pilgrimages to IHOP the sisters invariably drown their
stacks of buttermilk pancakes in strawberry and blueberry syrup.
"If one raises her fork, the other will too," says teammate
Camille Murphy. "And that's not even the cool part. I've seen
them eat Froot Loops, and without thinking about it, each of them
leaves two loops floating in her bowl. I'm like, Man!, how'd they
do that?"

There is a profound difference between them. "My favorite color
is red," volunteers Kelly.

"Mine's blue," says Coco.

"That's the difference," they chorus.

In conversation Kelly and Coco often finish each other's
sentences and answer questions simultaneously, the words of one
coming a beat late, sounding like stereo speakers slightly out of
sync. "When we're talking to each other we...," says Kelly.

"...only need a few words," says Coco.

"We don't have to speak in sentences..."

"...to get a point across."

Kelly was born first. Twinologists attach significance to the
order of birth, believing that the firstborn tends to dominate
the relationship and protect the younger sibling. That's not the
case with the Millers. "We're pretty equal," says Kelly, the
talkative one. "Neither of us is bossy."

"We usually agree," says Coco, the reflective one. "We either
love something or hate it."

Among the loves: actress Michelle Pfeiffer, the film Grease and
the mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark. "Her best book is Where
Are the Children?" says Kelly.

"Yeah," Coco says. "I like that one, too. Also, Michael Jordan's
Rare Air."

"Yeah. Same here."

What movies do you hate?

"Dead Man Walking," says Coco. "It was too depressing."

"Yeah," says Kelly. "Depressing."

They each had A's and one B over four years at Mayo High in
Rochester, Minn., about 75 miles south of the Twin Cities. They
have had identical grades at Georgia, where they take premed
classes together. Even their basketball stats are similar. In
their freshman season Kelly attempted one fewer field goal,
blocked one more shot and averaged 1.5 more points. Last year the
similarities got eerier: Kelly tallied 628 points (18.5 per game)
to Coco's 626 (18.4). Each was assessed 79 fouls. "They are the
same player," says McDonald.

Not quite. Both skitter around the court like a pebble skimmed
over water, but Coco, on the wing, is a more mobile shot maker
who stops and pops with her elbows squarely under the ball. The
calculating Kelly is a playmaker who waits for the action to come
to her and extends her arms when she shoots. Less tenacious than
her sister, Kelly dishes more deftly and doesn't wilt in
tournament heat. At last season's NCAAs she was named MVP of the
Mideast Regionals after almost single-handedly beating Iowa State
in the final. She buried her first seven shots against the
Cyclones' 2-3 zone, hit six three-pointers, had a career-high 33
points and stifled Stacy Frese, the top long-distance gunner in
the country.

In the previous game--a 67-54 victory over Clemson--Coco had gone
loco. Held scoreless for the first 14 minutes, she sat next to
Landers for the next six. She fared no better in the second half
and was yanked after only three minutes and soon thereafter moved
from Landers's side to the end of the bench. Kelly's 22-point
scoring jag was nearly eclipsed by Coco's crying jag on the pine.
"People still think I banished Coco there," says Landers. "The
truth is I realized we were going to win, and I told her, 'The
cameras are coming over to me more and more, and the way you
look, I don't think you want to be on television. Why not move to
the other end of the bench.'"

She did, but the cameras trained on her anyway. "Coco plays so
hard and is so hard on herself," says her mother, Kathy, a
retired kindergarten teacher. "Ever since she and Kelly were
little, they've always given 150 percent."

As infants the twins were literally double dribblers. When they
were three, Marv Miller, their gym teacher father, gave them a
basketball the size of a small pumpkin. They aimed at the 10-foot
basket in the driveway, and Marv swears they sank a few. We'll
never know for sure. The sisters have never kept score. "We play
one-on-one just to play," says Kelly. "There's no sibling
rivalry."

Before long the Millers became Minnesota's most popular twin act
since Kirby Puckett. They were 12 when Landers spied them at an
AAU tournament. "Some youngsters that age were taller or more
talented," he says, "but none were more serious, more determined,
busier. Everyone was moving at 50 miles an hour. They were going
60, maybe 70."

Three national AAU and two state high school titles later, they
went to Georgia. All of Landers's starters were graduating. "We
figured we'd get plenty of game time," says Kelly. They were
right. The Bulldogs, who were hobbled by injuries, illness and
academic problems, began the 1997-98 season with only six
scholarship players--four of them freshmen. In the first three
games the Millers played all but one minute. "They'd get so worn
out, their pupils would roll back in their heads," Landers says.
"I'd call timeouts just to give players time to catch their
breath."

Desperate, Landers advertised in the campus newspaper for
walk-ons. "A 43-year-old woman called," he says. "I asked if she
was in college, and she said, 'No, I just want to play.'"

Kelly and Coco did too, sometimes to the exclusion of the other
Bulldogs. "They tended to pass the ball to each other, and
opponents started adjusting accordingly," Landers says. "I
didn't discourage them as much as I encouraged them to see the
whole floor."

The Millers are so tight that before last summer they'd never
spent a night apart. "Being away from Coco was hard," Kelly says
of the three-day hoops clinic she attended in Indiana. "I got
lonesome."

"Yeah," echoes Coco, "lonesome."

Will the twins spend the rest of their lives in tandem? Coco
says she wants to go into sports medicine; Kelly, into
orthopedics.

Might Coco switch to Kelly's field?

Coco: "Yeah, that could happen."

Might Kelly switch to Coco's?

Kelly: "Yeah, that could happen, too."

Of course, the AMA could take a backseat to the WNBA next
season. But the prospect of playing in separate cities unnerves
the Millers. "Living apart for a summer...," says Coco.

"...would be really weird," says Kelly.

What if a franchise drafted both of them? The twins exchange
looking-glass looks. Kelly tugs on her windbreaker, her right
pinkie stretched awkwardly below her left elbow. Coco tugs on her
windbreaker, her left pinkie stretched awkwardly below her right
elbow.

They sigh.

"That would be good," says Kelly.

"That would be perfect!" says Coco.

"It doesn't matter what team."

"We'd just be happy to be together."

"Yeah, to be together."

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY MANUELLO PAGANELLI Two much Behind Kelly (far left) and Coco, the Lady Bulldogs went 27-7 and advanced to the Final Four.TWO COLOR PHOTOS: BOB ROSATO (2) Pair of aces Last season Kelly (23) led Georgia in three offensive categories, while Coco holds the Lady Bulldogs' mark for points in a game, with 45.COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY MANUELLO PAGANELLI Sister, sister Coco (far left) and Kelly, who say there's no sibling rivalry between them, don't keep score when playing one-on-one.
With five minutes to go they play like it's the opening tip:
diving, sliding, picking up intensity.
Before long the Millers became Minnesota's most popular twin act
since Kirby Puckett.