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Milton, DeLisha 1974–

DeLisha Milton 1974

Professional basketball player

Tipped Off Early

Hard Work Led to the Pros

Fulfilled Olympic-sized Dream

Sources

From her upbringing in a small Georgia community, through the college ranks and ultimately to the pros, DeLisha Milton has created a marriage of sweetness, grit, and determination to become one of the countrys dominant female basketball players. With extreme focus and dedication to the sport, Milton has proven success on every level of the game. Such a blend has put in her in the national spotlight in the Womens National Basketball Association and on the worlds stage as a gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic athlete.

Born September 11, 1974 to Beverly Milton, DeLisha began developing her basketball skills in the southern rural region of Liberty County. Her court was a section of dirt and tree roots, the hoop, a bicycle rim nailed to a tree. There, Milton perfected her crossover dribbling, ball-handling skills, and leaping ability. She beat boys bigger than she and played well into darkness.

Tipped Off Early

According to an article appearing at www.afrocentricnews.com, Milton nearly drowned in a pool at age eleven. Author Dave Marks wrote that the incident served serious notice to Milton and those around her: My philosophy on life is to live each day to the fullest because I feel that every breath that I take is a borrowed breath, Milton is quoted as saying. At any moment it can be taken away. People in Miltons hometown thought she was rescued for a reason and destined for greatness. I do have a true purpose here on Earth, Milton stated. I dont know its been shown to me yet. I may be living it right now. Who knows? But while Im searching for that answer Im definitely going to enjoy myself.

While a collegiate player at the University of Florida, Milton was a model of consistency on the court. Balancing her studies with athletics was no easy feat. However, she managed to succeed in both areas. While hitting the books and ultimately earning a degree in sports management with a minor in mass communications, Milton continued to excel on the court. According to statistical information found at www.usabasketball.com, Milton showed steady improvement during her college years.

In her first season at Florida, she averaged 11.7 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2 steals per game. Milton continually improved throughout her collegiate career. As a sophomore,

At a Glance

Born on September 11, 1974 in Riceboro, GA; mother: Beverly Milton; Education: University of Florida, 1997.

Career: Professional basketball player. Selected as second pick in first round of American Basketball Leagues 1997 draft by the Portland Power; ABL disbands in 1998; selected as the fourth pick by the Los Angeles Sparks in the first round of the Womens National Basketball Associations 1999 draft.

Memberships: U.S. Team, World Championships, 1997-1998; U.S. Team, Olympic Cup gold medal, 1999; participating U.S. National Team, Olympic Team, 2000.

Awards: Naismith High School Player of the Year, 1992, 1993; recipient, University of Florida Presidents Recognition Award, 1997; Wade Trophy recipient as top senior in the country, 1997; NCAA Mideast Regional Most Outstanding Player, 1997; All-America first team, 1997; Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, 1998 (All-SEC first team, 1996-97; All-SEC second team, 1995; SEC All-freshman team, 1994; named to SEC All-Tournament team, 1994, 1997); named to WNBA All-Star team, 2000.

Addresses: c/o the Los Angeles Sparks, 555 N. Nash St., El Segundo, CA 90245

she improved her per-game average to 13 points and 6 rebounds. She averaged 15 points and nearly 9 rebounds per game as a junior before erupting her senior year. Milton capped her outstanding collegiate career with a whopping 19 points and 8 rebounds per game in 1997. For her work, Milton earned an avalanche of accolades. She paced her team to four consecutive NCAA Championship Tournament appearances, getting as far as the Final Eight her senior year. She won the Wade Trophy in 1997 as the top senior in the country. She received numerous All-America designations and Southeastern Conference honors, including: the 1997 SEC Player of the Year by both conference coaches and media, 1997 NCAA Mideast Regional Most Outstanding Player in 1998 and All-SEC first team in both 1996 and 1997.

Hard Work Led to the Pros

With such an impressive collegiate resume and her display of grit and tenacity on the court, Milton had no problem signing on with a professional team. In 1997, she was selected as the second pick of the first round by the Portland Power of the American Basketball League. Again, she wasted no time helping her team win. Despite folding as a league the following year, www.usabasketball.com reported that Milton ranked among leaders twenty-first for scoring (11.9 ppg.), eighth for rebounding (6.9 ppg.), fifth (tie) for steals (2.4 spg.), ninth (tie) for blocked shots (9) and twelfth for field goal percentage (46.5 %).

Just a year later, Milton was the fourth overall pick in the first round by the Los Angeles Sparks. She was now a member of the Womens National Basketball Association. In her professional debut for the Sparks, Milton was indeed the spark that lit a fire for the team. Milton helped power the squad to a 20-12 record and a second-place finish in the WNBA Western Conference. According to www.wnba.com, she averaged nearly 10 points per game in the regular season, third-best on the team, and maintained that average into the Western Conference finals. According to additional information found in the clubs media guide, the 2000 season saw Milton emerge in the spotlight this season, earning her first ever selection as a Western Conference All-Star. In that game, Milton had four points, four rebounds and three assists in 16 minutes.

Throughout the season, Milton started all 32 games, averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds per contest. According to the Sparks media guide, 2000 was a breakout season for the 6-foot-1-inch forward. Milton posted a career high 14 rebounds and six assists in the Sparks 73-66 victory over Minnesota (7/31). Notched a double-double with 13 points and 11 boards in the victory over the Monarchs (7/23). Tied a career high 20 points, while grabbing seven boards in the Sparks victory over Sacramento (7/5).

Fulfilled Olympic-sized Dream

In 2000 Milton received one of the highest acknowledgments for nearly any athlete when she was selected to the U.S. National Team that would compete in the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. The opportunity gave her the chance to add to her gold medal resume, as found at www.usabasketball.com. It includes medals from playing on the 1999 U.S. Olympic Cup team, the 1998 World Championship team, the 1998 World University Games team and the 1994 U.S. Olympic Festival team. For Milton, the opportunity to play on the worlds stage with the WNBAs finest was a crowning moment in her athletic career. In a live chat transcript from www.usabasketball.com, Milton summed up her feelings on the experience when the games first commenced. I think its an honor within itself being able to play with and against the best basketball players in the world, she said. Im pretty young in my basketball career and being able to be on the court with them and learn from them is really great. Its a confidence boost for me and it enables me to learn valuable lessons from great people and great players.

Team USA captured the gold medal of the 2000 Olympics, beating Australia 76-54. In eight games, Milton averaged 4.5 points and 2.6 rebounds, playing only 11 minutes per game. Milton took her role as a bench player seriously. The L.A. Sparks media guide cited her Olympic accomplishment. Milton, scored eight points off the bench in the opener against South Korea. Tied for fourth on the team with seven offensive rebounds in the tournament. Prior to the Olympic games, Milton told the Savannah Morning News, in a September 18, 2000 article, that getting to the games had long been a dream of hers. I always felt I was going to be in the Olympics one day, she said. I would watch track and field on television, and I would be in awe of how smooth they made themselves look. They made it look so easy. I told myself I was going to do that. It didnt matter what sport it was.

By the 2001 season, Milton had earned the nickname Sunshine, due to her ever-present smile. However, at the same time, head coach Michael Cooper had given Milton a different moniker. Thanks to her intense, scrappy play on the court, as well as her relentless, no-holds-barred dominance of the boards for rebounds, Milton has earned the name D-Nasty. Miltons game is of merciless defense, yet incredibly smooth ballhandling.

Miltons prowess on the court, as well as her stunning physical stature and good looks, earned her commentary in Esquire magazine. In its August 2000 issue, the publication profiled Milton under its section Women We Love, along with the following assessment. Her eighty-four-inch wingspan is longer than that of most heavyweights. Its no wonder, then, her childhood friends would stare at those long fingers and arms and call her E.T. Tree. Slim. Delicious. DeLisha Milton answered to all of em when she was practicing under the bicycle rim nailed to a tree in her grandmothers dirt backyard in Riceboro, Georgia. Her outta-this-world ballhandling was born in that soil. When you stand six feet one and can dribble around male opponents and between bony-fingered tree roots, you can go to the hoop anywhere, anytime.

In the Savannah Morning News article, writer Timothy Guidera cited the origins of Miltons alter ego. She is one of the leagues true intimidators, as much for her aggressive attitude as her ability to block shots. During a nationally televised game late in the season, Milton shoved Phoenix Monarchs Michelle Griffith and then challenged her face-to-face before both players received technical fouls. It really wasnt anything uncharacteristic for a player who likes to let opponents know when she blocks one of their shots. Thats D-Nasty, Sparks coach Michael Cooper recently told the Los Angeles Times. She has the killer instinct.

Sources

Periodicals

Esquire, August, 2000, pp. 72-3.

Savannah Morning News, Sept, 18, 2000.

Online

www.usabasketball.com/usab/Women/milton_transcript.html.

www.usabasketball.com/Women/milton_bio.html.

www.wnba.com/playerfile/career/delisha_milton/html].

www.afrocentricnews.com/html/marks_milton_sparks.html.

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from the Los Angeles Sparks Media Guide, 2001.

John Horn

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