The country’s best female basketball player wears scarlet and gray for the Buckeyes; and I continue to say…she’d start for every area boys team, and embarrass a lot of them.
I said this when I first saw her play as a sophomore for Princeton High School, in Cincinnati.
That is, that Kelsey Mitchell could start for every boys varsity basketball team in Miami County…and embarrass most of them. She’s that good.
How good? Well, it’s a difficult comparison to make between men’s and women’s basketball. Most girls don’t play like boys. They don’t run like ’em. They don’t jump like ’em. They don’t shoot like ’em. And they don’t handle the ball like ’em. So how does one characterize Kelsey Mitchell by comparison? Well, let me put it this way.
Most boys don’t play like Kelsey Mitchell, plain and simple.
“Ah h—,” said Press Pros colleague Greg Hoard, who lives in Cincinnati, when I shared my comparison and above statement with him following this week’s Buckeye-Indiana game. “There ain’t no way,” he objected, with his southern Indiana drawl. “I’d a taken care of her when I was playing in high school. That’s what I would’ve did. I defended the other team’s best player.”
Not so fast, “Breeze” (a nickname given to Hoard during his time covering the Reds for the Cincy Post). I never saw Hoard play, of course. But I can’t imagine him keeping up with Mitchell.
And that’s where her game excels over almost every contemporary female playing in the Big Ten, and even nationally. She simply plays faster than everyone else, and does it effortlessly. She’s lightning fast, yet she doesn’t run. Rather, she glides up and down the court, reminiscent of the great Oscar Robertson, if you ever saw him play.
Her left-handed jump shot from three-point range is machine-gun quick, and usually just as accurate. Defenders who try to stop her usually can’t get to her in time when she rolls off a pick. She averages just under 40% from beyond the arc while admitting…her shot has abandoned her over the last month.
Still, she’s averaging 24.6 points a game (2nd nationally), and led the country in scoring as a freshman with 873 points (the first freshman ever) and 127 made threes, and averaged…25 points a game!
Yet, she’s not a ball hog – one of the best and most deceptive passers of the ball you’ll ever see. She’ll break some fingers before she’s done at Ohio State…of unsuspecting underclassmen who aren’t looking, or expecting the ball to come on such a flat and accurate plane.
After a typical performance against Northwestern last year in her freshman season (37 minutes, 25 points and 6 assists), I asked veteran coach Joe McKeown (eight years at Northwestern and 19 years previously at George Washington University) to assess Mitchell based on first impression.
“First of all,” said McKeown, “…it’s not a first impression. We’ve all been aware of her for years now. She was a phenomenon in AAU basketball, so all of us knew about Kelsey Mitchell. She’s obviously everything you see, and more.”
Pausing for a moment, he smiled and added respectfully, “She’s in a class by herself.”
Her own coach, Kevin McGuff, simply calls her “an incredibly special player.”
She’s majoring in sports administration at Ohio State, and she puts that as her top priority as a collegiate athlete. She’s proud of her skills as a basketball player, but realistic over the fact that there is no NBA waiting in the wings. The WNBA is no equivalent, by any comparison, and if she chooses Mitchell will make that transition seamlessly and take it by storm.
In the meantime, if you get the chance, go see her. Without trying she entertains with skill and just enough showmanship to let you know she knows you’re watching.
And boys, take notice. She’s played against you for years growing up. She wouldn’t back down now. Unless you defend her using some mixed martial arts, and value your pride, you probably don’t want to challenge. If you doubt me ask Joe McKeown, or any Big Ten coach.
She’s that good!