USC’s Mitchell expected to go early in WNBA draft

Tiffany Mitchell was a three-time All-American and two-time SEC Player of the Year at South Carolina. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

COLUMBIA — Tiffany Mitchell’s journey from college All-American to professional basketball player begins Thursday night, when the South Carolina senior will likely be selected in the WNBA draft.

Mitchell is one of 12 players invited to attend the draft, scheduled for 7 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. A three-time All-American who finished fifth in USC history in points scored, the 5-9 guard has been projected as high as the No. 3 overall pick in mock drafts.

“I didn’t really try to pay too much attention to all the hype and the talk about where I’d be drafted and what number, what team I would go to. I just tried to stay busy, just tried to control the things that I can control,” Mitchell, twice named SEC Player of the Year, said on a conference call with reporters.

“Wherever I get drafted, that’s kind of out of my control, so I’d just try to think about the things that I can do and that was in my own power and my control. I would spend some time at the mall, do some retail therapy, and kind of just enjoy college while I can. Everything is about to pick up, so I might as well just have fun while I’m here.”

Mitchell will likely become the sixth former Gamecocks player taken in the WNBA draft, joining Aleighsa Welch (second round, 2015), Jocelyn Penn (first round, 2003), Petra Ujheyli (second round, 2003), Shaunzinski Gortman (first round, 2002) and Teresa Geter (third round, 2002). Welch, a Goose Creek native, is currently playing professionally in Portugal.

Connecticut star Breanna Stewart is projected as the draft’s top selection. USC head coach Dawn Staley, a six-time WNBA All-Star, is helping Mitchell prepare for the next step in her career.

“Coach Staley has been one of the main people that’s been helping me with this process of just becoming a pro and thinking like a pro now,” Mitchell said. “We talked to agents together, we talked to teams together, so she’s definitely helped me get the right mindset going into ... being drafted.”

— Tyasha Harris, ranked one of the top point guard prospects in the country, signed with Staley’s Gamecocks on Wednesday. The native of Noblesville, Ind., is rated the No. 8 point guard and No. 27 player nationally by ESPN. USC also signed off-guard Victoria Patrick, an Orlando, Fla., native who averaged 15.8 points per game as a senior and is ranked the No. 25 player nationally at her position.

Harris and Patrick join point guard Araion Bradshaw of Hyde Park, Mass., and forward Mikiah Harrington of Pembroke Pines, Fla., in USC’s 2016 signing class. The Gamecocks also have two transfers, Allisha Gray from North Carolina and Kaela Davis from Georgia Tech, who will be eligible next season.