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Sunday, February 15, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Georgia Doubles Its Pleasure, Doubles Fun With Miller Twins -- Kelly, Coco Show Similar Basketball Talents

AP

ATHENS, Ga. - For all of four minutes, Kelly Miller was alone. Then Coco Miller followed her into the world, and they've been inseparable since.

It's not unusual for identical twins to share an almost psychic bond, but these two might as well be attached at the hip. They have identical tastes in music (country star Garth Brooks), food (pizza is their favorite), hair style (ponytail) and career aspirations (sports medicine).

Once they step on the basketball court for the Georgia Bulldogs, the Millers would be nearly impossible to tell apart if not for Coco wearing No. 35 and Kelly No. 23.

"Ever since we were young, we've done everything together," Coco Miller said.

Georgia has benefited greatly from this indivisible duo, which arrived this season from Rochester, Minn. Both have been starters in the backcourt, and their performances have been uncannily similar.

Midway through the season, Kelly had played 603 minutes, Coco 592. Coco was leading the team in scoring at 18.7 points per game, Kelly was right behind at 18.0. Kelly led the team in assists at 6.2, Coco was second at 4.5; Kelly was averaging 5.5 rebounds, Coco 4.5; Kelly was . . . you get the picture.

"They're wired up," Coach Andy Landers said. "One of them can be going for the steal and the other one seems to have a sense about it and takes off the other way. The one who is making the steal doesn't even have to look for her sister. She can throw the ball over her head, sideways, underhanded or just slap it - it always goes right to the other one."

That sixth sense is honed in practice. The twins always seem to be in sync, chattering quietly with each other at every opportunity or simply communicating with a glance of the eyes, a wiggle of the shoulders or a casual slap of the hands.

Even their physical movements are eerily similar.

Marv Miller allowed his daughters to take part in a study of twins conducted a few years ago by the University of Minnesota. "They were probably two of the closest twins they had ever dealt with," he said.

Unlike twins, who crave a dose of individuality, the Millers don't seem bothered by their unbreakable union.

"We've never wanted to do different things," Kelly said. "We just love playing together."

The Millers come from an athletic family - one sister was a swimmer at Arizona and their brother played football at Wisconsin - so it was only natural that the twins had a ball in their hands early.

"They had one of those little baskets that you hang on the door ... and they would go at each other one on one," Marv Miller said. "You would think the house was coming down on you."

The twins began to hone their skills at age 3 after their brother's high-school games.

"When they were 5, we got them a bigger ball and they learned to shoot at a regular-size hoop. By the time they were in third or fourth grade, they were very, very good," their father said.

The Millers played lots of sports growing up - soccer, tennis, golf, figure skating, gymnastics, swimming - but basketball was their favorite. They led Mayo High School to a pair of Minnesota state championships, including last year's 27-0 team that finished No. 3 in USA Today's national rankings, and wound up as consensus prep All-Americans and rated among the top prospects in the country.

At Mayo, Kelly scored 2,151 points, 38 more than her sister. Coco had 603 assists during her prep career, 54 more than her sister.

Landers, who has coached two other sets of twins during his 22-year career, was aware that the Millers would present challenges.

"When there's a reason to critique one of them, a lot of times the other one has a mental reaction or an emotional reaction," he said.

The Millers' new teammates also had to go adjust. Landers had to insert the twins into the lineup after Georgia lost all five starters from last year's Southeastern Conference championship team.

"At first, it was kind of frustrating," said Pam Irwin, who joins the Millers in the Georgia's three-guard lineup. "They play so well together and we were still coming together as a team. We wanted them to let us in on what they had."

Slowly, the Bulldogs are picking up on the nuances in the Millers' games, allowing the twins to mesh better with the rest of the team.

"It seems to me that Kelly is a little bit more calculating as she asserts herself at the offensive end," Landers said. "Coco is more of an attacking person. They're both good passers, but Coco has a little more flair. Kelly tends to be a little bit more fundamental with her passing."

But that's about it as far as the differences go.

"I can't think of anything else," Kelly Miller said. "We're really very similar."

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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