The singers were taking a test run through the national anthem; the security guards were in their final briefing before doors opened.
Tiffany Mitchell already had been on the floor shooting for half an hour.
“I’m a little bit more confident with respect that in my first year, you don’t really know what to expect in how you’re doing out there,” the second-year pro mused Friday before her Indiana Fever tipped off against Atlanta.
Confidence, and talent, were never in question when the three-time All-American and two-time SEC Player of the Year was lighting it up at South Carolina. Great things were expected of Mitchell the day she walked through the doors of Colonial Life Arena, and she never disappointed.
But she also was never complacent. Her being first on the floor to warm up was common, and she’s carried that into her professional career.
Mitchell was averaging 10.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 24 minutes before Friday, starting three of 15 games but making an impact off the bench. Mitchell scored in double figures in 10 of the Fever’s 15 games; when she didn’t hit doubles, Indiana was 1-4.
She also broke her own franchise record by stroking 43 consecutive free throws earlier this season and checked into Friday’s game with a 94.5 percentage from the line. That ranked second in the WNBA.
Her cheering section, led by her mother, was evident before the game. Their garnet and black didn’t quite match Mitchell’s yellow and red Fever togs but the intent was clear – it’s TiffMitch, as close as she can get as a pro to her hometown (Charlotte) and her college town.
“I talk to coach (Dawn) Staley a lot, (Aleighsa Welch, Elem Ibiam), they’re all here,” she said. “This is the closest I get to home and Columbia. I’m excited to play in front of them.”
Mitchell had a fine first WNBA season and then headed to Russia for the main part of her pro career. She’ll play in Turkey this fall, when the WNBA season concludes.
“I like traveling, I like new adventures and new experiences,” Mitchell said. “It’s going to be an adjustment, but I’m looking forward to it.”
She was traveling during the winter – the Russian road trips made WNBA travel seem like going across the street – but managed to catch USC’s run to the national championship on her phone and tablet. Airport Wi-Fi was her best friend during that night against Mississippi State.
“I’m really excited they had the opportunity. It was meant to happen,” Mitchell said. “It was long overdue for coach Staley. I’m glad she finally got one.”
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