Kelsey Mitchell is a flat out scorer.
Though her Indiana Fever are still searching for their first win of the year, the second overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft seems to be the real deal on the offensive side of the ball.
“I love playing competitively and I love playing against the best of the best,” said Mitchell. “For a while now, I have been telling myself each time before I step out on the floor, ‘If I want to be competing against the best, how do I need to play to be able to hang around?’ It has become almost second nature for me now.”
Second nature indeed. Currently Mitchell is ninth in the league in scoring (19.4 PPG) and trails No. 1 overall pick, A’ja Wilson (20.4 PPG) for the honors of the top-scoring rookie.
It wasn’t a seamless transition to the pro game for Mitchell, as the former Ohio State star – who finished her collegiate career as the second-leading scorer in Division I history – posted 8.5 PPG on just 17.6% shooting in two preseason games. However, her head coach Pokey Chatman was never concerned with Mitchell.
“What I saw? I saw that preseason games allow special rookies to have a couple games under the bright lights, and figure out the nuances of the entire game,” said Chatman. “I think the biggest thing with Kelsey is that she has courage. When she is in those moments, she trusts the work she has put in, and she just continues to learn the game at a really fast pace.”
Mitchell has scored 15 or more points in all but one of the first eight games this season, and set a career-high with 26 points against the New York Liberty on on June 2. She followed up that performance by matching that number in the very next game against the Dallas Wings. Her offensive prowess has officially been introduced at the WNBA level.
“She has a really quick first step, and an impressively quick release on her shot. She is much stronger and bigger than what her size would tell you on a roster sheet,” Chatman said. “When she is on the floor, the court seems to shrink and its because of her strength and ability to change pace. When a player can put all those different things together, which Kelsey is realizing she has the ability to do, it makes for a very special package.”
Typically scorers look up to other scorers, so it was not surprising to hear Mitchell share that her favorite player to watch was Cappie Pondexter, who in her 13th season, has averaged 16.9 points per game in her career.
“When she came and talked to us at the WNBA Draft I was amazed. She is so cool and so down to earth, and was letting us know how life in the WNBA is,” said Mitchell. “So when I had my first opportunity this year to play against her, I definitely was talking to myself like ‘This is crazy! I am really here.'”
As Mitchell enjoys a terrific start to her professional career individually, the end goal is to contribute to your team, leading to wins. So far this season, the Fever have yet to secure their first.
At any level, losing is no fun. The name of the game is to win, and when that is a struggle, it is sometimes easy to lose confidence and motivation to continue at the grind. According to Mitchell, the Fever are determined to get through these rough times.
“No one is giving up. It is the struggle right now that we are going through, but everyone from the coaching staff down to each one of my teammates has bought in to trusting the process and working hard to get that first win,” Mitchell said. “I think that things are going to start rolling for us soon.”
While this Indiana Fever team continues to search for its first win of the season, Mitchell’s scoring will be needed in order for them to get on any sort of roll. And if history tells us anything, that won’t be any issue at all.