When the pick came in, applause erupted from the Fever’s draft room: Indiana got its player.
With the ninth overall pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft, the Fever selected Tiffany Mitchell, a hard-nosed, 5-foot-9-inch shooting guard capable of racking up points and shutting down opponents with her defense.
Mitchell played her college ball at South Carolina under former WNBA star Dawn Staley, which added to the Fever’s desire to draft her.
“We’re really exited that she was still around, and we feel like she can come in and make an impact,” head coach Stephanie White said shortly after the pick was made.
As a child in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mitchell was surrounded by boys in her basketball-crazed family. So her mom decided to bring her to Charlotte Sting games (one of the WNBA’s original eight teams), where she got an early look at women’s professional basketball.
“She would always take me to those games just to kind of let me see other women play basketball, because i was always around guys,” recalled Mitchell. “So it was kind of a good getaway for me.”
At those Sting games, Mitchell found a new favorite player in Dawn Staley, who would later become her coach in college. Her mom even got her a Staley jersey that Mitchell was able to get signed after a game.
“I put it up in my room, and it’s still there to this day,” Mitchell said proudly.
The ability to contribute quickly is always a factor for a first round pick, but that need was amplified this year by it being Tamika Catchings’ final season in the WNBA.
“We’re never going to find a substitute for Tamika Catchings, you just hope you can find two or three players who can collectively give you what Tamika gives and, to be quite honest, what you miss most with a player like Tamika, you can’t even see on the stat sheet,” White explained. “So that’s where the toughness, the mentality, the work ethic, all of those qualities come into play and I think that Tiffany Mitchell, to have a year to learn from Tamika, and you look at this team with Briann January as well, those type of qualities are what you really want to surround yourself with, and she has those.”
While Mitchell will still need time to adjust to the speed and pace of the WNBA, an aspect of her college game that could carry over nicely is her 3-point shooting, where she connected on 40 percent of her shots over her four years of college.
Additionally, Mitchell played in a defensive-minded system at South Carolina.
“Anytime you have a defensive mentality, anytime you compete the way she competes you have an opportunity to contribute,” said Coach White of Mitchell. “She’s never going to hurt you on the defensive end of the floor and that’s exactly what you want. Offensively, she has a tremendous skill set, so she’s going to be able to play in the open floor and play the way we want to play.”
In the second round, with the 21st overall pick, the Fever selected Brene Mosley, a guard out of Maryland. As a senior, Mosley came off the bench and provided an offensive punch for the Terrapins. And with their third round pick — 33rd overall — the Fever selected Julie Allemand from Belgium, who is expected to remain overseas this season.