'My Road to the WNBA' by Tiffany Mitchell of the Indiana Fever

Tiffany Mitchell of the Indiana Fever recounts the path that led her from a single-parent home to eventual SEC stardom and ultimately to the WNBA.

My name is Tiffany Mitchell, and if my name doesn't ring a bell just keep reading and I'll give you a little history about myself and how I managed to reach one of my childhood goals, which is playing in the WNBA.

I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, in a single-parent home with my mom and my brother Tory. My mom (Cheryl) wasn't an athlete growing up, but she loved sports and tried to make sure my brother and I stayed occupied in the sports world.
Tory played pretty much everything, and I was the annoying little sister who just ran around at his games and paid no attention. My brother always use to come home with trophies, and I started to notice and of course got a little jealous because I didn't have anything in the house. I eventually told my mom that whatever Tory is doing to win these trophies I want to do the same.
My mom was pretty hesitant about this, because I couldn't stick with one activity for longer than a couple weeks; she expected basketball would be the same. But it was just the opposite.
I fell in love with the game. At the time, the only teams I could get on were all-boys teams, but that didn't bother me as long as I was running up and down the court. Literally that's all I did: I ran up and down the court because my skill level at that age was at an all-time low. But I was happy, which was the only thing that mattered to my mom.
As I got older and realized that basketball was something I wanted to continue to do throughout my life, my mom invested more of her time into getting me some of the best trainers in Charlotte and also putting me on an AAU team out of Atlanta.
Playing in Atlanta in the summer was great for my career, because I was exposed to a lot of college coaches and started to get recruited at a young age. Although I received a lot of attention from big schools in the ACC, SEC and other major conferences, I was blown away by the fact that Dawn Staley was one of the coaches who recruited me. Growing up, I watched her play for the Charlotte Sting and became a huge fan of hers at an early age. So when the time came for me to make a decision of where I was going to school, it was a no-brainer.
South Carolina wasn't really known for women's basketball around the time I committed, but Coach Staley told me when I was in high school that if I stuck with her and believed in the process, people's perception of USC not being a basketball school would change.
Tiffany Mitchell
I've been a hard worker my whole life and I love challenges. My first year at South Carolina was pretty up and down, as it is for many athletes transitioning to college from high school. Things improved quickly though, and the following two years were some of the best for not only me but also the team.
I was honored to be named the SEC Player of the Year following my sophomore and junior seasons. I was also a three-time All-American and a finalist for almost every individual award there was out there. On top of my individual success, our team advanced to the Final Four at the end of my junior season. I was living the dream, a dream no one thought possible when I chose to go to USC three years previous.
My senior season was more of a headache than I imagined, especially coming off two successful years. I broke my foot playing on the USA Pan Am team that summer and was cleared to play right before the home opener. Following that rocky start, my senior year resembled my freshman year—up and down, inconsistent and frustrating, to say to the least. To make matters worst, an early exit from the NCAA tournament during the Sweet 16 was a sour ending to an otherwise fantastic experience at South Carolina. We did, however, manage to win another regular season title and were back-to-back SEC tourney champs.
Next up in my basketball journey was the WNBA Draft.
As a little girl who once dreamed of playing at the highest level, that dream came true when I was selected ninth by the Indiana Fever.
Some may have thought I should have gone higher in the draft, but I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Going to Indiana meant I was lucky enough to play with WNBA legend Tamika Catchings my first year, and the overall atmosphere of the Fever organization was awesome.
My first season, like my freshman year at USC, was up and down. As a rookie, you run into some things you just have figure out for yourself. I started the season really well and toward the end kind of plateaued. I was still able to be a part of the USA select team during my rookie year and also made the WNBA All-Rookie squad. These accomplishments set me up for my first year overseas playing on one of the top teams in Russia.
To learn more and follow my story and my life overseas in Russia, keep checking back in as I will post more cool videos and pictures of my overseas life.
I hope you have enjoyed learning a little about me and my journey to becoming a professional basketball player. Stay tuned, as I will keep you in touch with some of my day-to-day routines and the ups and downs of being a women's pro basketball player. Thanks for reading.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BASKETBALL TRAINING | WNBA | TIFFANY MITCHELL | DAWN STALEY | UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA