On Monday, hours before the deadline to declare for the WNBA Draft, Ohio State Buckeyes guard Taylor Mikesell announced her decision to return for a fifth college season. The lead up to the decision created nerves for Ohio State fans, considering Mikesell’s impact in the Scarlet & Gray’s 2021-22 B1G Championship-winning season. It wasn’t any easier for Mikesell.
“To be honest, I kinda went back and forth every single day,” said Mikesell on Wednesday. “I was kinda 50/50. Some days I thought it might be best for me to stay, some days I thought it’d be best for me to enter the draft.”
In terms of ability to play at the next level, Mikesell has it. The guard averaged 18.6 points per game, shooting 47.5% from three and 48.2% from inside the arc. All three career highs for a shooter that’s been at, or near, the top of the NCAA’s best shooters in the country. Mikesell ended the season second in percentage, but made over double the baskets (114) than No. 1 ranked Tess Amundsen from Cal State Northridge (56).
On the court, Mikesell wasn’t distracted by the decision. Especially when it came to the NCAA tournament. Mikesell shelved her decision-making completely, focusing instead on moving further into March Madness. That mental focus on the game turned into the No. 6 seed Buckeyes making it within three points of the Elite Eight, falling short against the No. 2 seed Texas Longhorns, 66-63. That small margin of defeat played a role in the decision.
“I think getting that close and knowing that we had what it takes and what it took to win that Sweet Sixteen game [against Texas],” said Mikesell. “And even looking at Stanford and knowing we were talented enough to play with them, it was obviously really motivating.”
Another motivating factor? Returning to a Buckeyes team that returns all but three of Mikesell’s championship teammates. Senior forward Braxtin Miller and graduate senior forward Tanaya Beacham each ended their college careers. A third came in another Monday decision for guard Kateri Poole, as the sophomore guard announced that she was entering the transfer portal.
There’s one teammate that Mikesell didn’t have the chance to play with on the court this season – starting point guard Madison Greene. The junior guard suffered a season ending knee injury before the start of the season, and if healthy for next season brings 13.4 points and 4.3 assists per game. Mikesell and Greene played together in the past, in Mikesell’s junior year of high school in AU basketball. Greene’s addition is a gamechanger.
“I’m excited to play with her again and see how much better we’re going to be with her on the court. I think it’s going to be pretty crazy,” said Mikesell.
It isn’t just Greene that the Buckeyes add in the upcoming season. Head coach Kevin McGuff’s 2022-23 team features three commits in guard Kaia Henderson, forward Cotie McMahon and guard Mya Perry. Henderson averaged 33 points per game as a high school senior in Utica, New York. McMahon is a 6-foot forward from Centerville, Ohio. Both Henderson and McMahon enrolled into Ohio State early.
Promising prospects, plus returning four out of five starters from this past season, not only puts Ohio State into a conversation for moving into the Elite Eight or Final Four, but makes Columbus, Ohio a destination for players in the transfer portal.
Mikesell joined the Buckeyes following three seasons split between two teams. After two years with the Maryland Terrapins, Mikesell took her talents to the West Coast, playing one season with the Oregon Ducks. That transfer portal experience comes with wisdom Mikesell shares with players that were in her position, and a Buckeyes sales pitch.
“My advice to someone is to go where they feel appreciated,” said Mikesell. “Go where they’re going to have the chance to showcase themselves as a person and as a player. I think it makes sense for people to come here just with the freedom that coach McGuff gives you.”
It’s not only freedom that McGuff and the staff gave Mikesell, but support. Throughout the decision-making process, it wasn’t Buckeye leadership making a sales pitch of their own for Mikesell to stay. Mikesell shared how supportive the coaching staff was, focusing on making the best decision for her, not for winning games on the court.
Now that Mikesell is returning in Scarlet & Gray for one final season, there’s no more decisions to be made. Mikesell and the Buckeyes have a season ahead where they can go even further.