Local star moves south with big basketball dreams

High School Sport

ALBANY, N.Y. — We still don’t know if high school basketball will tip off in New York state this winter amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but Avery Mills didn’t stick around to find out. Even though moving to North Carolina wasn’t in the young star’s plan.

“At first, I was like, ‘No, I love Mekeel. Why would I do that?'” she explained.

At Mekeel Christian, Mills was a star. She was the Western Athletic Conference player of the year as a 12-year-old seventh grader, and a first-team All-State member in eighth grade. However, her basketball dreams are much bigger than that.

“I want to go to the WNBA,” Mills stated over Zoom from her home in North Carolina. Transferring to Winston Salem Christian School was the next logical step. She competes on a national-level team that plays year round.

“The best competition you can get pretty much,” Mills described her team. “Might not average 30, but still, you’re getting a lot better.”

All of the girls on her team have Division I talent, and they’re coached by a former NBA player Delaney Rudd. When Avery and her family met with Rudd, the coach expressed extreme confidence in Avery.

“He told us, he said, ‘I’ve only had one freshman in my years with the national team that I’ve had, and she went to the WNBA, played at West Virginia,'” said Mike Mills, Avery’s father. “And he said, Avery’s gonna be my second.'”

“It’s been good. It’s been a challenge, but a really good challenge,” said Avery about her last five weeks with the team. They’ve already played several tournaments in the Southeast. Her father admitted that it was an adjustment at first getting used to the in-game rotations.

“Up North, she played four quarters and you have to put in 25-30 to win. Here, every girl on that team could go for 30, but every girl on that team is getting 10-12.”

With more than a dozen Division 1 colleges already showing interest, the 5-foot-8 point guard has seen the move pay off.

“Even in practices, we’re going head to head. We’re going 100 percent, sprinting, competing with each other. I’m getting a lot better. I can already tell,” Avery said.

After one tournament, Avery and her family, including her mother, father, and brother, all came down with COVID-19. They’re doing much better, though, and she has no regrets.

“I’m like 100 percent sure this was the best decision.”

She and her father both said that breaking the news to Mekeel Christian head coach Kelsey Collins was the hardest part of the process. To improve the competition for Mills, Collins had moved Mekeel Christian out of the Western Athletics Conference so they could play a tougher independent schedule. However, now that she’s gone, the Lions will have their work cut out for them if there’s a 2020-21 season.

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