Braxtin Miller wears mascara, fancies leggings, sometimes will wear a dress and away from sports is a self-described “girlie girl.”
The Ohio State quarterback?
No, the point guard of the Alter High School girls varsity basketball team, a freshman who already has been offered a scholarship by OSU.
“I’m the real Braxtin, he’s the other one,” the 15-year-old said with a laugh. “But he’s doing a good job holding up his end of the name.”
The Dayton area now has produced two special athletes with the same name.
Although their first names differ by one letter — he’s ‘Braxton’ — and she has that extra chromosome, the two are alike in many ways.
The 21-year-old quarterback out of Wayne High was just named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. Saturday night he leads his unbeaten No. 2 Buckeyes into the Big Ten Championship game against Michigan State, and with a victory there, OSU likely would earn a berth in the BCS national title game.
His Alter counterpart — who, many think, may one day stand alongside the best women’s basketball players from this area, talents like Tamika Williams Brandie Hoskins, Megan Duffy and Alison Bales — already has won two national titles on the AAU circuit, one each with the Dayton Lady HoopStars and the Cincinnati Angels.
Running the offense for the talented Alter team, she scored 17 points and had four steals in a 74-61 victory over McAuley in Cincinnati on Tuesday night. In the stands were coaches from Ohio State, Kentucky and Duke.
While OSU already has offered a full ride, Michigan State has told Cara Miller, Braxtin’s mom, it wants to do the same. Among the others in the recruiting scrum are Louisville, Kentucky, Michigan, Purdue, Penn State, Maryland, Indiana, West Virginia, Nebraska, Toledo, Cincinnati and Dayton.
“There’s only a handful of major colleges that she has not heard from, but I think she’ll hear from ALL of them soon,” said Logan Allen, the assistant athletics director at Miami Valley School and the head of the Lady HoopStars with whom Braxtin played until last summer.
“What she’s done so far and where she is right now as a freshman just beginning her high school career, she’s heading into uncharted territory so to speak. This will be my 10th year with the HoopStars and I’ve got to say, Braxtin is the best player I’ve seen. She’s the best I’ve been around for sure.”
As for the shared name, Allen said she’s “definitely holding up her end of the bargain.”
That’s not to say there aren’t some skeptical looks, she said:
“At our game last Saturday at Northmont, they announced the starters and when they go ‘No. 24 Braxtin Miller,’ the guys who were waiting to play (next) were like, ‘Who?’
“My teammates joke with me. They watch the crowd when my name is said and they say peoples’ reactions are pretty funny. Everyone kind of steps back and goes ‘Braxtin Miller? That can’t be.’ ”
Since she is the one responsible, Cara explained the origin of the name: “When she was born, people would say, ‘Did you get it from Toni Braxton?’ I’d say, ‘Nope, it’s from a football player.’
“Now people will say, ‘The OSU player?’ And I’m like, ‘C’mon, he was 5 years old when my daughter was born.’ It’s from (former NFL player) Tyrone Braxton. When I was pregnant we were watching a football game and I was trying to think of a name. All of a sudden I saw it. It was on the back of his jersey: Braxton… I said, ‘That’s it.’
“People said, ‘But that’s a boy’s name,’ so to make them happy, I changed the ‘o’ to an ‘i.’ But my oldest girl is Tyler. I like those unisex names because you never know what you’re getting. Is it a boy or a girl? It’s a real surprise.”
‘Just a nice kid’
Tyler, who is six years older, played at Alter and Braxtin followed her into the sport.
“She’s been in the basketball gym since kindergarten,” Cara said “Her dad (stepdad Shawn Johnson) would work with her and he developed her. When she was in the second grade, we brought her to the HoopStars, but they didn’t have anything less than a fourth-grade team. They finally agreed to let her try out and she ended up starting at guard for them.”
In 2010, she and her HoopStars teammates won the under-10 national title in Orlando and this past summer, her Cincinnati Angels team won the USJN Nike National tournament in Washington, D.C.
Soon after that the recruiting interest got a bit overwhelming, Cara said. When one Big Ten program that wanted to offer a scholarship pressed for Braxtin to visit the school just before classes began at Alter, Mom had to step in.
“I told them we’d have to visit later,” Cara said. “It had nothing to do with them. I was just trying to keep her life a little less crazy going into high school.”
At Alter, head coach and athletics director Chris Hart tries to do the same, not just for Braxtin, but for all of the Lady Knights, seven of whom have drawn college interest.
“We all are trying very hard to keep the pressure off our players this year,” Hart said.
By all accounts, from Hart to Allen to Rachael Smith, the Cincinnati Angels coach, Braxtin has shown extraordinary temperance when it comes to outside recognition.
“She’s just a nice kid who is really humble,” Hart said. “And it’s not just us who see it. One of her teachers came up to me and said, ‘Braxtin is the most humble, the nicest young lady you could meet.’ I think that’s the best compliment you can have. That’s truly how she is. She remains very true to herself.”
Braxtin doesn’t seek the spotlight, and even during this interview kept steering the conversation to her teammates.
Pressed about the college interest she already is receiving, she shrugged: “The thing is, I don’t want anyone to ever think I was cocky. So if I get a letter at school, I make sure I put it in my backpack right away.
“I don’t want anyone to see it and I don’t want to make anyone sad if they aren’t getting recruited. I’m a little bit embarrassed by the publicity and attention I’m starting to get. But I guess that’s part of the challenge, too.”
Strong work ethic
As she showed Tuesday night against a good McAuley team, she’s also more than capable of meeting the on-court challenges.
“She played well,” Hart said. “We tend to be a little more settled when Braxtin is on the court.”
That statement said a lot considering Braxtin was playing on the eighth-grade team last season and is now just three games into her varsity career.
“There are just so many different ways she can make a positive impact on the floor,” Hart said. “Not just with scoring, but with her passing — she makes her teammates play better — and with her defense.”
Similarly, Rachael Smith talked about Braxtin’s “ability to take over a game … her explosiveness to get to the basket in a big moment.”
While much of this is natural talent, she also puts in extra work.
Several times a week, after her Alter practices, Braxtin has another 90-minute shooting session with Allen here in Dayton or maybe one of the Angels coaches in Cincinnati.
“She knows if she wants to continue to have the opportunities, she has to put in the extra work,” Cara said. “If everything she wants is going to come true, that’s what she has to do.”
That dedication, coupled with the level-headedness away from the game, is what has college programs so interested. She said she got her first recruiting letter from Miami University the summer before her eighth-grade year.
These days a steady stream of recruiting mail comes to the family’s Moraine home.
And then there are the bigger pitches. Ohio State invited her over for the Buckeyes football game with Wisconsin this year.
“It was so cool,” she said. “Oh gosh, I loved every part of it. You could actually feel the roar of the crowd. They took us down on the field at halftime and we took pictures with some really cool people. A lot of the (women’s) basketball players were there and so was Aaron Craft and Brutus.
“LeBron James had been on the sidelines, too. And the football team was even on the field just a little bit while we were there.”
That meant, if ever so briefly, Braxton was sharing the stage with Braxtin.
“Ken Laake, who is the boys coach at our school (Miami Valley), always jokes with Braxtin,” said Allen. “He tells her, ‘You know, at some point, Braxton Miller, the quarterback from Ohio State, is going to be known as the male Braxtin Miller.”