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Catching Up with Tiffany Mitchell: Staley Fan and Fashion Maven

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WBB-12 Tiffany Mitchell with fans after Clemson.jpegWomen's Basketball is off to a great start this season, going 12-1 in nonconference play, suffering just one loss to No. 1 Stanford. With two games of the SEC portion of the season under their belt the No. 18/16 Gamecocks are 1-1 with a loss to No. 9 Tennessee and a road win over Mississippi State. Freshman guard Tiffany Mitchell out of Charlotte has started all 15 games for Carolina this season and has the second-highest scoring average on the team with 11.1 points per game. Named the Gatorade Player of the Year and Miss Basketball in North Carolina last year, Mitchell's immediate impact has been an asset to the team on the court, as has her fun personality. We caught up with her after practice Wednesday to get to know her a little better. You can also watch her Gamecock Spotlight here.

BL: How's freshman year going so far? What has been the biggest adjustment from high school to college?

Tiffany: I think freshman year is going pretty well. I'm still getting adjusted to how physical the game is in college and how fast-paced it is. I get tired a lot faster than I did in high school because we put so much focus on defense, so I'm just trying to get used to having a defensive mind.

You've now had a couple SEC games. What has been the biggest difference in SEC play vs. some of the nonconference games?

SEC teams are very efficient. They know what they're good at and they execute well. It's hard trying to figure out everything they do so I'm just trying to get used to playing people who are a lot older than me and have been doing this the past couple years.

You're starting as a freshman. How have the older players been able to help you along?

They definitely help me with scouting reports, remembering plays, what people do and personnel. They also help me if I'm struggling with my shot or anything else.

Who are you closest with on the team? Who do you turn to if you have a question or a problem?

Basketball-wise probably Ieasia [Walker] since she's a point guard she has to know what everybody does and everything that's going on. So I know if I have a problem or need to know what to do on a play I know I can go to her and she'll probably know. Outside of basketball I spend a lot of time with the other Tiffany [Davis], Elem [Ibiam] and Aleighsa [Welch]. Elem is my suite-mate and right across the hall so if I ever need anything I can just go to her. She also played on my AAU team when I was younger so we already had a connection.

What has been your favorite thing about being in college at South Carolina so far? It can be something basketball-related or non-basketball.

The food and being able to eat a lot [laughing]. Just having plenty of opportunities to get food any time you want to. They feed us well and I like that.
{{Note- I warned Tiffany she would definitely miss that meal plan a few years from now after graduating - I know I do!}}

Tiffany Mitchell room picture.jpegYou were a big Dawn Staley fan growing up (picture of Tiffany's room at home, left); what was it about her that made her your favorite?

Growing up I was small too, sort of like her, and I wanted to be a point guard...I just focused in on her when she was with the [WNBA's Charlotte] Sting. I wanted to make my game after her; I'd always go to the [Sting] games then in my practices try to mimic her and what she does. She was the player I looked up to.

Has your perspective on her changed at all now that she's your coach?

It's definitely different. I can't really be like "ohhhh Dawn Staley!" [making a starstruck expression]... But I still take heed to everything she's saying. I respect everything and have full confidence that she's going to get me where I want to be. That's one reason why I came here.

How did Coach Staley being here affect your decision to come to South Carolina?

A lot of people said, "Oh, we knew you were going to South Carolina because of Dawn Staley!" and I really had no idea. Junior year I still didn't really know where I wanted to go. But then I sat back and realized it's all right here - I like the whole coaching staff, not just her, and it was close to home as well.

Does your family come to a lot of games?

My mom comes to every game! She cheers, but you're not going to hear her too much, she doesn't get loud.

What have you learned about Coach Staley as a person now that you play for her as opposed to watching her from afar?

She is really goofy. She doesn't look goofy when she's coaching or sitting on the bench, but she really is one of the goofiest people... One example- if you ask her a question and she doesn't want to answer it she'll pretend she's asleep and just [Tiffany tilts her head to the side and closes her eyes to demonstrate]. We've also been teaching her how to [dance the] Dougie for like, six years.

Obviously during the recruiting process she would have picked up on you being a big fan. Does she ever bring it up to you?

Sometimes I think she forgets. It is a little awkward. Now that I think about it, it's a little creepy that I used to follow her online and look up her stats all the time. Now that she's my coach if she knew what I did when I was younger, she'd be like, "what??" [laughing]

I heard you almost always have a blanket with you and now the team even calls you Blanket as a nickname?

I think it started in the Virgin Islands. It was really hot but I still had my blanket wrapped around me. I take it on all road trips. I don't really sleep under covers; I just sleep on top with the blanket. It's not always the same blanket. One is a SpongeBob blanket - he's my favorite cartoon character - I've had that blanket since about 8th grade. Another one I got for graduation is really soft so I started using that one. I left that one in Louisiana and I was really sad but we were able to call the hotel and they sent it back. My mom bought me another one for the dorm that's really thick and warm.

What are some of the fun things you like to do outside of basketball?

I like going to the mall a lot. If I'm not in the gym, sleeping, or eating, I'm probably in the mall. I love shopping, I love shoes, I just like fashion and getting dressed. We don't always have many opportunities to look nice. When I'm going to class from practice I don't always have time, but in high school we had a dress code and had to look nice so I got used to doing it.

Do you have any favorite trends or clothing items right now?

For trends right now I like big sweaters with leggings and boots or scarves. That's what I like for this type of weather.

More and more fans have been coming out to the games. What does the fan support at South Carolina mean to you and the team?

I think it's great. It gives us moral support and we feel good that even if we mess up sometimes our fans are still there cheering. It's a lot different than when we're on the road and everyone is against you. It's more warming to come home where everyone is cheering for you.

Come cheer on Tiffany and her Gamecock teammates! Next game is against Vanderbilt on Thursday at 7:00 PM. Game notes and preview here and check out the full schedule here.

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