Women's Sports: Who were the Cheryl Miller-led USC Trojans women’s basketball team?

Ahead of HBO Sports’ upcoming documentary “Women of Troy” which debuts on March 10, we take a look at the women’s basketball team behind the storyline and its leading star who changed the landscape of basketball forever.

Cheryl Miller was arguably the most decorated high school player of her time with a path destined for UCLA until a talk with her future teammates, twins Paula and Pam McGee, made her reconsider the offer. She redirected her route to USC and made this the court where her basketball goals would be achieved to the fullest.

The Boston Herald reports that the film’s executive producer, Gary Cohen, said: “Cheryl was such a transcendent figure in high school. I was surprised.”

Miller scored 3,018 points throughout her college career, ranking her tenth of all-time in NCAA history, and achieved a rebounding mark of 1,534 to rank her third of all-time. By the time she graduated she was a four-time All-American, three-time Naismith College Player of the Year and earned the Wade Trophy (Player of the Year) once.

But it was what Miller did for the USC Trojans as a team that caught the eye of both the film producers and the world alike. She led them to a 112-20 record and two NCAA titles in 1983 and 1984, named NCAA Tournament MVP both years.

The Trojans changed the sport forever with their up-tempo play style and superior athleticism guiding them to their back-to-back national championships, as well as influencing the birth of the WNBA.

And Miller’s post-college career was no different from her decorated college run as she went on to earn two national titles and an Olympic gold medal before pursuing a broadcasting career post-USC.

The film also focuses on Cynthia Cooper and cover her extraordinary relationship with Miller. Cooper grew up in Watts, Los Angeles, and faced great adversity trying to support her family whilst studying at USC. Little did she know she would become the face of women’s basketball during the conception of the WNBA.

Cooper, the 2010 Hall of Famer, is considered the first true heroine of the WNBA after she led the Houston Comets to the first four WNBA championships after the league formed in 1997.

But it was the fiery relationship between Cooper and Miller which powered the USC Trojans beyond expectation at a time when women’s basketball was largely overshadowed by its men’s counterpart. The energy of near-fights between Miller and Cooper at practice because of their passion for the game spilled over into the fans, creating an electric atmosphere like never before.

Doris Burke, the renowned basketball historian, opens the film with one simple question: “What if, after Michael Jordan first displayed his tantalising, exhilarating greatness on a national stage, an injury abruptly ended his career and he disappeared from view?

“That’s Cheryl Miller”, Burke continued.

On International Women’s Day it is important we appreciate stories of empowerment and determination, played out by strong and pioneering women world and industry-wide.

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