COLUMBIA — Tiffany Mitchell will make it to Indianapolis after all.
The South Carolina All-American was taken by the Indiana Fever with the No. 9 overall pick in Thursday night’s WNBA draft in Uncasville, Conn., tying her for the highest-drafted player ever out of USC. She’ll begin her professional career in the same city which hosted this past season’s Final Four — which the Gamecocks fell two games short of making.
Mitchell became the third first-rounder in USC history, joining No. 9 overall choice Jocelyn Penn in 2003 and No. 9 overall pick Shaunzinski Gortman in 2002. The 5-9 guard averaged 15.1 points over a senior season in which the Gamecocks finished 33-2 and reached the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.
Mitchell also became the sixth South Carolina player taken in the league’s 20-year history. In addition to Penn and Gortman, previous WNBA draft picks out of USC include Petra Ujheyli in the second round in 2003, Teresa Geter in the third round in 2002, and Aleighsa Welch in the second round in 2015.
Welch, a Goose Creek native, was taken last season by the Chicago Sky with the 22nd overall pick. The former USC All-American was later released by the team, and is currently playing professionally in Portugal.
For the first time ever, the top three players drafted all came from the same school. Connecticut forward Breanna Stewart was taken No. 1 overall Thursday by Seattle, with Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson selected No. 2 by San Antonio and UConn forward Morgan Tuck picked No. 3 by the Connecticut Sun.
Mitchell was a catalyst in the rise of a South Carolina program which has been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in each of the past three seasons, and reached the Final Four in 2015. The Gamecocks won their third straight SEC championship and second consecutive SEC Tournament title this past season.
A two-time SEC Player of the Year and three-time first-team All-SEC selection, Mitchell finished her South Carolina career with 1,885 points, fifth-most in program history, and second in both 3-point field goal percentage (.399) and free throw percentage (.773).