Aunt Avy shares story of twin nieces' basketball successVery few Alexandrians can say they are related to someone that has been featured on a Wheaties Breakfast of Champions cereal box.
By: By Dori Otterson, contributing writer, Alexandria Echo Press
Very few Alexandrians can say they are related to someone that has been featured on a Wheaties Breakfast of Champions cereal box.
Alexandria resident Avanelle (Avy) Gray can! On that cereal box, pictured in the front row third from the left is her niece, Kelly Miller, point guard for the Phoenix Mercury, 2007 Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) champions.
But that’s not all; Kelly has an identical twin, Coco, who, until now, played for WNBA rival, the Washington D.C. Mystics. Both girls have been playing in the WNBA since being drafted right out of college eight years ago.
Before being drafted by the WNBA, the girls hardly spent a night apart. Kelly and Coco grew up in Rochester, Minnesota, where their dad was a physical education teacher. During grade school they were involved in many sports, but realized their love of basketball around age 10.
They began playing on their high school varsity basketball squad in 8th grade. During their sophomore and senior years, their play helped the Rochester Mayo High School Spartans win the state championship.
The twins had always dreamed of playing in the WNBA. Upon graduation in 1997, they enrolled in the pre-med program at the University of Georgia, which was known for its highly competitive basketball program.
WNBA scouts had their eye on the “whirlwind twins” throughout their college career, especially after the Georgia Lady Bulldogs made their 16th trip to the Final Four during the girls’ sophomore year.
Their junior year, they were flown to New York to be jointly presented the prestigious Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Sullivan Award, which recognized them as the nation’s top outstanding athletes.
They knew playing as professionals would force them to go their separate ways. When they graduated from college in 2001, the Washington Mystics selected Coco, and Kelly was drafted by Charlotte.
For the twins, who had always played together, it was a difficult adjustment – even more difficult when they were forced to play against each other.
They have enjoyed a respite from competition and separation by playing together overseas during the off-season. The previous two years, they played in Moscow and Russia, and prior to that, they played in France, Turkey, Korea and China.
Although Kelly loves Phoenix and has enjoyed four years with the Phoenix Mercury, she has returned home. The January 31, 2009 issue of the Minneapolis Tribune, announced that Kelly had signed a contract with the Minnesota Lynx.
The Lynx had previously expressed an interest in Coco, but recently, when her contract with the Washington Mystics was broken, she signed with Atlanta’s new expansion team, the Dream. It has always been the twins’ hope that someday, they would again play together on the same team.
The Lynx WNBA season began in June, so this season basketball fans can see first hand this famous woman athlete with local connections.
Avy and her late husband, Wesley, moved from Morris to Alexandria three years ago to be near family. Avy’s two sons, Kelly and Coco’s cousins, also reside here. David is director of pharmacy at the Douglas County Hospital, and Dan owns Pizza Ranch.