Quiet Palmer stands on top step of HU women’s hoop program

Miranda Palmer (left), a senior guard on the Huntington University women’s basketball team, rises to the hoop for a basket during a game against visiting Spring Arbor University earlier this season on Jan. 7. Palmer became the program’s all-time leading scorer this season, breaking Amy Bechtel’s record of 2,019 points, set in 2000.
Miranda Palmer (left), a senior guard on the Huntington University women’s basketball team, rises to the hoop for a basket during a game against visiting Spring Arbor University earlier this season on Jan. 7. Palmer became the program’s all-time leading scorer this season, breaking Amy Bechtel’s record of 2,019 points, set in 2000.

Originally published Feb. 23, 2017.

Miranda Palmer is only 5-6.

But in one monumental way, she stands taller than anyone else in the history of Huntington University women’s basketball.

In a game on Feb. 1, the Foresters’ star senior guard broke the program’s career scoring record. That mark – 2,019 points – had been set by Amy Bechtel and stood for 17 seasons.

Long before Palmer had scored her first point for Huntington, the team’s head coach, Lori Culler, couldn’t help but wonder if she, then a recruit from Arcadia, OH, was capable of having a collegiate career like Bechtel’s.

“Honestly, when I saw her play – she came and played here with us in an open gym – she really took it to us,” recollects Culler. “And I thought, ‘Wow, what are the chances that we could end up with somebody with that kind of potential?’”

Culler was further wowed by Palmer at her games for Arcadia High School. It was there Culler took note of Palmer’s deft ball-handling skills and ability to score via the step-back three-pointer, which would become her signature move at Huntington.

“I thought that, you know, she could be a very good player,” says Culler. “Definitely thought she could be in the top five in our scoring.”

Palmer proved through her freshman and sophomore seasons that that’s where she was heading. Her first year culminated with being named to the Crossroads League all-freshmen team. She continued that momentum into her second year, which saw her crack the Foresters’ starting lineup. Her status as a league standout was cemented at season’s end when she was selected as a first-team all-conference honoree, the only sophomore to receive that distinction.

It was between that year and the following one that Palmer started to hear chatter about her potential to overtake Bechtel atop the career scoring list.

“It didn’t even cross my mind until after my sophomore year, when people started bringing it up,” says Palmer. “So, before that, I hadn’t even really thought about it.”

That chatter increased over the course of her junior year. That campaign concluded with Palmer earning first-team all-conference honors once again. Also, she’d earned a spot among Huntington’s top-10 career scorers, moving into ninth place on the list with 1,514 points.

Throughout the regular season of her senior year, Palmer ascended the list even further, passing such players as former teammate Amelia Recker, fourth with 1,716 points, and current Huntington assistant coach Joanne Miller Green, second with 1,906 points.

By the time Palmer scored her 2,000 point in a contest on Jan. 28, it seemed all but guaranteed that she would pass Bechtel.

And a game later, on the road against Grace College, she did.

In addition to her reliable step-back three and ball-handling acumen, Culler cites Palmer’s agility, plus her knack for being able to finish layups with either hand, as the reasons she broke the scoring record.

“Her ability to get into places that a lot of other players can’t and her ability to finish with her left hand,” says Culler. “She’s right-handed, but I think a lot of people really try to take away a right hand, and so she was very adept, actually probably preferred going left.

“So, that was a unique aspect of her game I think that people didn’t, still, quite catch on to.”

Palmer adds that she hasn’t been content to rely on tried-and-true moves and has instead endeavored to expand the scope of her abilities each season.

“I guess I’ve just tried to add,” she remarks. “Each season there’s been something that I wanted to add, like an aspect to my game.”

In regard to Palmer’s teammates, Culler says the senior has set a positive example for them in multiple ways. The coach points to Palmer’s dedication to lifting weights, plus her even-keeled demeanor on the court, as attributes that have rubbed off.

She adds that Palmer’s humble spirit has also made an impression.

“I’ve always just appreciated her humility,” says Culler. “For as good a player as she is, there are times players like that can be very off-putting to teammates and she has always deflected the success to her teammates and (that) is, I think, why she’s very beloved by her teammates, because she has done a great job of being able to figure out how to play within a team and was always very much more concerned about the outcome of the game more so than her stats.”

As of this writing, Huntington’s season was still going strong, with the team set to face Indiana Wesleyan University in the quarterfinals of the Crossroads League Tournament on Tuesday, Feb. 21, with semifinals following on Friday, Feb. 24. Winning the tourney would send the Foresters to the NAIA National Tournament, a place they’ve been twice before during Palmer’s time with the team.

Accordingly, with the season still active, Palmer hasn’t had the luxury of being able to pause and reflect on her accomplishment.

“I don’t really think it’s fully sunk in yet, because we’re still playing and we’re still just looking forward at the games ahead,” she says. “So, honestly, I don’t think it’s quite processed yet.

“But, I mean, it’s exciting and it’s an honor. It’s just cool to know that I have a lot of people supporting me, like just all the encouragement I’ve received and the congratulations and everything.”

In Huntington’s Platt Arena, where Palmer played so many games, a banner featuring Bechtel overlooks the basketball court.

Before long, one featuring Palmer will join it.
“I’m very excited that we had a player of that caliber come to Huntington,” reflects Culler, “and that she was able to have the career that she did.”