The Next Generation: Olivia Miles has been a star from the jump

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Olivia Miles was a decorated high school recruit and has proven herself one of the best points guards in the country since joining Notre Dame.

When Olivia Miles steps on the floor for Notre Dame, she’s immediately recognizable. Not just from her trademark goggles, but also from her play — Miles, a finalist for the 2023 Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the Year Award, is one of the best lead ball-handlers in the country.

She’s also someone whose availability for the NCAA Tournament is in question. Miles suffered a right knee injury back on Feb. 26 against Louisville and missed the ACC Tournament because of it. Her status going forward remains up in the air.

ESPN’s Alexa Philippou tweeted that “NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee chair Lisa Peterson told ESPN Notre Dame said it’s uncertain whether Olivia Miles would play in March, but they didn’t say she *wouldn’t* be playing in March, so they went under the assumption she is “b/c we weren’t told any different”

With Miles out of the lineup, Notre Dame struggled, falling 64-38 to Louisville in the ACC Tournament. The stability she brings to this offense was very clearly missing, and for Notre Dame to make a deep run in March, the team will need Miles back on the floor. Only time will tell if that’s going to happen or not.

But regardless of her status over the next few weeks, Miles is one of the best young players in the country and deserves to be celebrated.

Olivia Miles was a star, right from the jump

Miles came to Notre Dame as a top-10 recruit, ranking No. 8 in ESPNW’s Class of 2021 rankings. She was the No. 2 point guard. A three-time All-State player at Blair Academy, Miles ended up enrolling early at Notre Dame, playing six games during the 2020-21 season. Despite essentially being a high school senior still, Miles averaged 22.7 minutes per game for the Irish that season, scoring 9.3 points per contest and shooting 51.1 percent from the floor. It was early, but you could already get a sense of her importance.

And then Miles burst out of the gate strong in her actual freshman season. She was in the starting lineup for all 33 games and averaged 13.7 points and 7.4 assists per game. That assist number ranked second in the nation, and Miles was named First-Team All-ACC after her performance, and likely would have been named ACC Freshman of the Year over teammate Sonia Citron if those six games in 2021 hadn’t taken away her eligibility.

She topped that off with an impressive showing in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 14.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game as the Irish made a run to the Sweet Sixteen, where they lost by just three points to No. 1 seed NC State. That run included a 108-64 win over No. 4 seed Oklahoma; Notre Dame was a No. 5 seed in last year’s tournament.

Now in her third…or, I suppose, more like her second-and-a-half…season at Notre Dame, Miles took another step forward this season, boosting her scoring average to 14.3 points per game and getting more involved on the glass, jumping from 5.7 to 7.3 rebounds per contest. She had a slight dip in assists, but not too much — she fell from second in the nation in assists per game to sixth.

But her impact is even more apparent when you look at her on/off numbers. The Irish are 23.2 points per 100 possessions better with Miles on the floor than off the floor, a number that dwarfs the on/off net rating of anyone else on the team. Citron is at plus-11.5. Dara Mabrey is third in on/off differential at plus-5.8. Notre Dame just plays immensely better on both sides of the floor when Miles is on the court.

Miles has made some big plays on the offensive end this season, including this game-winner in overtime against Louisville:

One thing about Miles that goes beyond the box score is that she’s just never scared of the moment. Lifting up for big shots in key moments. Absorbing contact and driving to the basket. Setting her teammates up to make open looks. Miles has maturity and a swagger to her game.

And it really pops when you watch her pass.

She’s not afraid to fire a pass across the floor. She can stop on a dime while driving, see an open player at the hoop and set her up perfectly to score. She can throw a pass off the dribble with her offhand, like she did earlier this season against Syracuse when she found KK Bransford wide open under the basket on a play where you could tell the defense just had no idea what to do about her.

And while her offensive impact is what gets a lot of attention because of her playmaking abilities, her impact on defense is just as big, if not bigger. The Notre Dame offensive rating gets 10.4 points per 100 possessions better with Miles on the floor, but the defensive rating gets 12.8 points per 100 possessions better, with the defensive rebounding rate, steal rate and block rate all increasing with Miles on the court.

Notre Dame’s basketball legacy

Miles is also part of a long lineage in South Bend, which has become a breeding ground for really talented guards over the years. Skylar Diggins. Kayla McBride. Jewell Loyd. Marina Mabrey. Arike Ogunbowale. Jackie Young. The past decade-plus has seen a steady stream of players stop off at Notre Dame on their way to WNBA careers, and Miles is one of the latest in that lineage, along with fellow sophomore Sonia Citron.

One thing missing from Miles’ mantle, but that she’ll still have a couple more shots at getting: a Player of the Year award. Diggins won two of them in the Big East; McBride and Loyd each have one in the ACC, while Ogunbowale was the 2018 ACC Athlete of the Year.

But regardless of if she gets one of those or not, Miles has joined the long list of great players for Notre Dame, and she still has two more years to build on that legacy. Notre Dame has won a pair of NCAA titles, most recently in 2018, when Arike Ogunbowale sunk a game-winning shot at the buzzer to give the Irish the title. Could Miles lead them to another?

Maybe. The Fighting Irish were elite with Miles on the floor this season, and they’ll be adding the No. 5, No. 16 and No. 20 recruits in ESPN’s 2023 rankings. You could make an argument that a healthy Notre Dame team would be a contender this year based on its track record: just four losses with Miles in the lineup, all to Quad 1 teams.

The future in South Bend is bright with Olivia Miles at point guard. And her future’s also bright beyond that. Many of the WNBA’s veteran point guards are nearing the end of their careers, opening up great opportunities for a young guard like Miles to make an impact on the basketball court that’ll last long beyond her time at Notre Dame.

light. Next Greatest Generation. The next stars of women's college basketball

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