Indianapolis, IN — They call her ‘Tough-Any.’ Resilient.
Indiana Fever’s Tiffany Mitchell may have made her WNBA debut this season, but at 5-foot-9, the former University of South Carolina guard is learning to hold her ground among the professionals.
“You knock me down three times, and I’ll get up four,” said Mitchell. “I’m going to battle hard, and I’m determined. I’m tough.”
Mitchell said her toughness goes back to when she first started playing basketball. She said she remembers watching her older brother, Tory, bring home trophies from basketball tournaments when she was younger.
She said seeing him be successful sparked her interest and made her want to win too. At age seven, Mitchell joined her brother and cousin’s team and began to play for an all-boys team.
Mitchell said that since a young age, her confidence is what sets her apart from others and that she continuously strives to be the best on the team.
“I started playing against boys, and when you’re playing against someone that’s stronger and faster, you’ve got to have something that sets you apart,” Mitchell said. “Being confident in everything I do has made me successful early on in my career.”
Underneath a Dawn Staley Charlotte Sting jersey hanging on her bedroom wall, Mitchell wrote down a list of goals she wanted to accomplish.
“I wrote down that I wanted to play in the WNBA,” Mitchell chuckled.
Little did Mitchell know at the time that not only would she accomplish her goal, but she would also play under the coaching of one of her childhood idols.
After high school, Mitchell packed her bags and traveled down south to play collegiate basketball at South Carolina, where she was coached by the Dawn Staley.
While at South Carolina, Mitchell helped bring the women’s basketball program to a national prominence. She went down in Gamecock history as the most decorated women’s basketball player of all-time. Mitchell was a three-time All-American, and she also received All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) First Team honors and was named SEC Player of the Year twice.
Mitchell wrapped up her collegiate career with the University’s President’s Award, which is the highest award bestowed on a student-athlete and honors academic and athletic accomplishments as well as community involvement.
After a successful college career, Mitchell found herself at a table this April at the WNBA draft. She anxiously waited to hear her name, but as the first eight names were called, “Tiffany Mitchell from South Carolina” was not one of them.
Finally, it was Indiana with the ninth pick in the first-round and Mitchell’s name was called.
“It was a great feeling and at that moment you could kind of take a sigh of relief and be like ‘OK, I made it.’ But at the same time, you didn’t really make it — atleast to me,” Mitchell said. “It’s never done; the work is never done. I’m never satisfied with the position I’m in.
“I just knew ‘OK now that I’m on a team, and I’ve been drafted it’s time to work even harder.’”
And that’s just what Mitchell did.
‘Tough-Any’ said she was motivated by success, and her aggressive mentality helped her to continue to push herself hard every day. She even admits to “probably overworking” herself because that’s “how bad [she] wanted it.”
Fueled by adrenaline, Mitchell threw down 18 points and had a 32-minute outing in her WNBA debut. She has continued to develop as a player through the season, playing aggressively and with the confidence similar to her veteran teammates. She said she continues to play resiliently.
Although she’s sort of plateaued in the last few games, she still is averaging 10.5 points per game. This Olympic break will hopefully give Mitchell the time she needs to refocus and prepare for the second half of the season.
Right now, that piece of paper with a young athlete’s WNBA aspiration is still at Mitchell’s childhood home in Charlotte, North Carolina. Only now, it doesn’t stand alone; it’s surrounded by pictures, plaques, and trophies that Mitchell has gathered throughout the years.
“It’s still there. I definitely see it every time I go home,” she said.
It stands as a reminder for Mitchell to continue to work hard to accomplish her goals.