A few years ago, I put together a list of the best girls to ever play high school basketball in Mecklenburg County.
One day, when I do another one, Providence Day star Tiffany Mitchell will undoubtedly be on it.
She has many of the same qualities some of the best here ever had.
She's got the athleticism of former North Mecklenburg star Andrea Stinson; the scoring ability of former Providence Day star Konecka Drakeford; the will of former West Charlotte star Crystal Caldwell. And she's got the kind of work ethic I rarely see in many male or female high school stars.
Mitchell, a 5-foot-10 guard, works at her game like she's the last player on coach Josh Springer's bench, not the highest ranked high school player in North Carolina or a player who has signed with the South Carolina Gamecocks. Friday, she was honored as a McDonald's All America game nominee.
But several days a week, on top of practice, Mitchell drives out to Fort Mill to work out in Charlotte's best basketball developmental center, Accelerate Basketball, submitting to an hour-long, sweat-inducing session that's worn out plenty of area players and some NBA players who regularly work out there like the Cavaliers' Antawn Jamison, the Bobcats' Gerald Henderson and the Warriors' Stephen Curry.
"For me," Mitchell said after Friday's 67-22 win over rival Charlotte Country Day, "it's all about getting better. There's no point to slack off, or to play to the competition. I have a lot to work on."
Mitchell imposed her indomitable will on this game early Friday, helping her team to a 23-2 lead after the first quarter and a 42-8 lead at halftime. The impressive thing was watching, even in a blowout, how hard Mitchell worked, fighting for loose balls and rebounds like the Chargers were in a state final, not an easy regular season conference game on a rainy January night.
"I think our whole team feeds off her energy," Providence Day coach Josh Springer said. "You see how her kneepads are torn up? You can see her diving on the floor for the loose ball or going to the glass and having an unbelievable will and drive that we are going to be successful. She'll help (South Carolina coach) Dawn Staley and the rest of her team be better, too. I know South Carolina is excited to get her -- for that drive and will. I have no doubt she'll be successful down there."
Mitchell had 17 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two assists in limited minutes Friday, but she knows there are tougher games ahead. The Chargers (16-3, 2-0 CISAA) are ranked No. 2 in The Sweet 16. There are two league games coming up with No. 6 Charlotte Christian and then a state tournament where Providence Day will try to win its third straight state title and seventh in the past eight years.
"It's no secret that there's a huge target on our back," Springer said. "I heard someone say over the weekend that everyone who plays Carolina or Duke, that's their Super Bowl. It's got to be the same way, I'm sure, when everybody in our state plays us. Our girls know when they put on that uniform, that our goal and expectation is to win that state title."
Springer said players like Mitchell helps his team meet those goals.
"Girls like Tiffany Mitchell," he said, "make coaches like me look smarter."