Tiffany Mitchell (2012-2016) was the first “Super Woman” of the Dawn Staley era for South Carolina basketball. The three-time All-American and two-time SEC Player of the Year was a foundational piece of South Carolina’s dominance in the sport over the last decade, and she’s having her jersey retired prior to the Gamecocks first home game against Maryland on Sunday.
“I was really excited when Coach Staley told me,” said Mitchell, who helped the Gamecocks win their first three SEC Regular Season Championships and first two SEC Tournament titles and led the program to its first NCAA Final Four appearance in 2015. “It’s a huge honor.
“It was an amazing feeling to know I was a part of that foundation, and to see that South Carolina is known as a national powerhouse now. There was a lot of growth that I experienced as a player under Coach Staley. She put me in the position to be successful and grow as a woman. She sets you up to tackle whatever comes our way.”
The Charlotte, North Carolina, native grew up idolizing Dawn Staley as a player, and so it was a no-brainer when Staley and the late Nikki McCray-Penson, an assistant for the Gamecocks at the time, recruited her.
“I was a Dawn Staley fan, and being from Charlotte, I wanted to stay close to my family,” Mitchell said. “When I played AAU, they showed up to all of my games. I could always see somebody from South Carolina. That meant a lot to me. At the time, it wasn’t a popular decision for me to come to South Carolina, but I had enough conversations with Coach Staley throughout the recruiting process that made me feel comfortable.
“Nikki McCray was a huge part of my recruiting process. She was definitely on it every day. She meant a lot to me. She always wanted me to be successful. She wanted me to be great. When you’re younger, and you have someone who cares about you as much as your own mom, it means a lot. She will truly be missed. Even when I graduated, she was always checking up on me to make sure I was OK.”
“ I just wanted to come to the gym and get better. I didn’t care what it took, and it worked out for me.”
Mitchell was known for her tremendous work ethic and was always the first one to arrive at the gym and the last to leave.
“I wanted to be a better player, a better person, and a better teammate,” said Mitchell, who was dubbed “Super Woman” for her ability to do it all on both ends of the floor. “That summer (between freshman and sophomore year), I was in the gym all day, non-stop. It was to the point where they would kick me out of the gym, and they wouldn’t tell me how to turn the lights on. It would be 2 a.m., and I just wanted to come to the gym and get better. I didn’t care what it took, and it worked out for me.”
Following her senior season, she was selected in the first round of the 2016 WNBA draft by Indiana as the ninth overall pick, and recently completed her eighth year in the league, and first with the Minnesota Lynx. With only a dozen teams in the league, making the team isn’t a given for rookies, and it’s just as tough to stay in the league as a veteran.
“I learned a lot about myself, going through those ups and downs as a player,” said Mitchell, who has also played professionally overseas between WNBA seasons and has played in Russia, Turkey, Israel, and Australia. “My ability to adapt is important. I think I’ve handled that pretty well. I try to be a good teammate, and I try to stay ready.”
Mitchell is proud to see so many other former Gamecocks making names for themselves in the league, including two-time WNBA Player of the Year A’ja Wilson and 2023 WNBA Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston.
“We’re a WNBA feeder,” Mitchell said. “When you come here and commit to South Carolina, that’s the goal; to be a professional and to play at the highest level. Coach Staley definitely prepares her players for the next level. That’s why you come to South Carolina.”
Mitchell was a fan favorite for what she could do on the court, as well as her personality off of it. That big smile will be on full display Sunday at halftime at Colonial Life Arena, and as she is back on campus for the ceremony, the memories of her days in the Garnet and Black come rushing back.
“That run to the Final Four was just crazy from start to finish,” Mitchell said. “A lot of people probably didn’t have us there, and that’s what made us so special. We were a bunch of individuals that wanted to play for each other and play for Coach Staley. I think we took the identity of our coach. A lot of us were very hard-nosed competitors that hated to lose.”
The jersey retirement ceremony will take place Sunday at 12:35 p.m. prior to the 1 p.m. tip with Maryland inside Colonial Life Arena.