A high school freshman is staking a claim to Skylar Diggins' old stomping grounds
SOUTH BEND, Indiana -- A smile spreads across Mila Reynolds' face as her name is announced over the speaker. The 6-foot-2 high school freshman rises from her seat on the bench and rushes onto the court for the second game of Washington's post-holiday tournament in South Bend. Her hands high-five each of her teammates, who are lined up to pump up the starters.
Her father and head coach, Steven Reynolds, looks on proudly as she streaks by him. This is the exciting part of the job. This is Steven's sixth year at Washington and fifth as head coach. Before taking over the top job, he served as a freshman and JV coach under the legendary Maurice Scott. Now, Steven has the opportunity to coach the first of his five daughters at the high school level.
"He's my favorite coach," Mila says of her dad. "He really believes in me and wants to get the best out of me, on and off the court. Playing under him is not only fun. It's an honor."
If Maurice Scott and South Bend Washington sound familiar, it might be because Skylar Diggins graduated from Washington, and Maurice Scott is her stepfather. A decade after she graduated, Diggins' shadow still looms. She is everywhere, even the concession stand. Washington sells Bodyarmor, a sports drink in which Diggins owns a stake. She doesn't just have a plaque with her Indiana All-Star jersey hanging somewhere; there's a trophy case with a large print-out of an ESPN RISE Magazine cover and all of her awards right next to the door of the gym. Mila sees it every time she walks onto the court.
"It's really cool knowing that she went here," Mila, 15, says. "I respect everything that she has done, but I want to leave my own legacy."
That legacy includes etching her name into the record books. The freshman broke the Washington single-game scoring record on Nov. 24, notching 46 points as part of the Panthers' 85-14 rout of Gary Roosevelt. ("It was also along with a triple-double," Mila points out.) The previous record of 43 points was held by Diggins.
With offers from Indiana and DePaul already on the table, Mila is brimming with confidence and love for the game that only stand to grow over the next three years. Of course, it helps that she will be joined on the Panthers' roster by two of her sisters before she graduates.
Mila is the oldest of Steven and Marcy Reynolds' seven children. Amiyah is next at 14, followed by Kira, who is 12. Steven, the oldest boy, is 11. Jordan is 8. Aubrey is 7. And Tristan is 3.
"Family dinner is an experience," Mila says. The crew routinely crams around the dining room table with chairs gathered from all over the house.
"Everyone had a bubble 'fro at the age of 2," Steven says. "We can't tell them apart unless we label the pictures."
The 11-year-old Steven is the only one not present for the game on this December night at Washington. He has a game of his own. Everyone else is in place. Marcy is on the bench as an assistant coach. Amiyah is filming the game on an iPad. Kira is next to her, keeping tabs on the little ones. At halftime, they're all on the floor shooting around.
"It's pretty hectic," Mila says with a laugh. "There's a lot of running around the house and games being played. We all play basketball."
Basketball is what ties the family together. Steven grew up in South Bend and graduated from Washington's rival, South Bend Riley. Mila boos him as he says this. After graduation, he moved to Ontario, Oregon, to play for Treasure Valley Community College, where he met Marcy.
"Really long bus trips," Steven says. "We really got connected."
After finishing at Treasure Valley, Steven played at Western Michigan University before playing two years overseas in Norway and Austria. While in Oslo, Marcy signed a contract to play a handful of games after the coaches of the club's women's team saw her shooting with Steven. She found out after the games that she was pregnant with Mila.
On the court, Mila's chest heaves as she sucks in air. She is the do-anything anchor for Washington. She will rebound, run the fast break, pass to a teammate and grab the offensive rebound if they miss. She does it all with a smile on her face.
"I like the competitiveness there is in basketball," she says.
The competition fuels Mila every trip down the floor. She has a fun side, especially when her team is winning, but she's also on a mission. She wants to play elite Division I basketball and play professionally in the WNBA as well as overseas. "I want to be known for being a hard-working person on and off the court," she says. "A state championship would be good for me, especially with my sisters."
This Washington team is a long way from being a title contender, but that doesn't mean Mila is taking it easy. During this game, she hustles for loose balls and works to get her teammates involved. She rebounds and blocks shots. Of course she scores. Her effort pays off in a win for Washington and another triple-double for herself.
"Really," Mila says, "I just want to win."