There is little left for Kelsey Mitchell to achieve in the game of college basketball. The Ohio State point guard has already racked up nearly every personal accolade available to her in the college ranks, from National Freshman of the Year and leading the nation in scoring, to being a Big Ten Player of the Year, a first-team All-American, and a Naismith Award finalist for National Player of the Year.
Yet, while Mitchell has proven to be one of the top individual players in the game, she has yet to lead her team in fulfilling its ultimate goals, namely a Big Ten title and a run at the national championship.
The departures of seniors Ameryst Alston and Cait Craft after last season's Sweet 16 loss at the hands of Tennessee means that the Buckeyes are now Mitchell's team, and by all accounts she is stepping up to fill the leadership void.
"She's talking more, she's more engaged," head coach Kevin McGuff told The Lantern. "She's obviously a great kid, one of the hardest workers I've ever been around, and she's a fierce competitor. But she's also got a really good feel for the game, and I think that you see her sharing that more with her teammates."
The Cincinnati native was recently named preseason Big Ten Player of the Year by both the conference's coaches and the media, and also received preseason first-team All-America honors. As a sophomore, Mitchell was third in Division I in scoring at 26.1 points per game, a tick above the 24.9 she averaged in leading the nation as a freshman.
Mitchell became more of a complete player last season, as well, leading the team in steals and finishing second in assists. With a bevy of new faces on the squad this year, her continued development will be key to a team that some in the national media believe can contend not only for the Big Ten crown, but to have their one shining moment at the NCAA tournament.
Ohio State enters the season ranked No. 6 by the coaches poll and No. 7 by the AP, and was picked by the Big Ten media to finish second behind perennial powerhouse Maryland in the conference standings. Mitchell also finds herself on the cusp of cementing her legacy in program history.
Entering the season, the former McDonald's High School All-American is in ninth place in career scoring in program history, just 1,056 points behind all-time leader Jantel Lavender. To break that record in this campaign seems unlikely, but Mitchell very well could surpass Katie Smith for the No. 2 spot by the end of the season, as she needs 817 points to do so, a number she has passed in each of her first two seasons.
But Mitchell appears to be uninterested in those individual achievements. As she told The Lantern, "I'm not really into that. I just come to the court, play and go to school. There are so many great players that came through Ohio State, so to even be a part of that conversation is something that I'm really, really grateful for."
The individual records and honors will surely come if she continues to play at the elite level she has displayed since she set foot on Ohio State's campus. The real question now is can she be the leader the Buckeyes need, and direct the team's efforts to a bigger accomplishment?
Mitchell and her teammates will be begin trying to answer that question on Friday.