Ohio State is no stranger to witnessing great athletes shine on the basketball court from the moment they step on campus their freshman year.
Former Buckeye greats Katie Smith, Samantha Prahalis and Taylor Hill might be welcoming another member to their prestigious group by season’s end.
Kelsey Mitchell not only leads the Buckeyes in scoring, but also leads all scorers in women’s NCAA Division I basketball with 24.9 points per game, something no freshman has ever done by season’s end.
Coach Kevin McGuff said when Mitchell’s career as a Buckeye is all said and done, she will be one of the best.
“No question,” McGuff said. “She is an incredibly talented basketball player but what I think separates her from other players is her drive to become better.”
And for McGuff, the level Mitchell is playing at right now is only the beginning.
“As much as we are seeing great things out of her right now, I think her best days are ahead of her,” McGuff said. “She’s really driven to get better.”
Despite all the attention the freshman has been given this season, her main priority is to help OSU be the best team it can be, she said, and that means winning.
“Points, records and stats, who cares?” Mitchell said. “No one will remember that as much as they will for winning the national championship.”
Mitchell said she does not pay attention to the statistics, but has always focused on the team, and McGuff could not agree more.
“All she really wants to do is to help us win,” McGuff said. “That’s what makes her fun to coach, too, she is an easy kid to like and be around.”
Talk of a national championship coming home to Columbus would have been a stretch just a few seasons ago because, as junior Ameryst Alston puts it, OSU women’s basketball has not “been on the map” in recent years.
However, with a talented, young group and with Mitchell likely at the helm for the next few years, the talk around the team has taken a positive turn.
“It is exciting,” junior guard Cait Craft said earlier this season. “One of the best parts is having teammates who are so hungry to get better, so I think everybody is starting to realize how special we can be.”
And it starts with finishing out the season strong, with possible Big Ten and NCAA Tournament runs ahead.
“Our goal is to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year,” McGuff said. “We have a lot of work to do in order to beat some tough opponents coming up.”
The first of those tough opponents will be the No. 13 Iowa Hawkeyes, who are set to come to town Saturday as the Buckeyes will look to avenge a 73-65 loss from earlier this season.
“They are a great team,” Mitchell said. “Their chemistry is great, they can shoot the ball well, but if we can improve on the defensive end, then I think we will be fine.”
McGuff said winning big games in the Big Ten is the first step in reaching the high goals set for this young team.
“That is just part of being in the Big Ten,” McGuff said. “Every night is tough, there are good players and coaches everywhere you look. It is important to withstand tough moments.”
The Buckeyes are set to take the court at the Schottenstein Center for the final time this season Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.