Kelsey Mitchell wasn’t about to mince words when looking back at a challenging rookie season in the WNBA.

“It sucked,” she said shortly after the season. “It sucked. Can you hear it? It sucked, man. Oh, my God. It was frustrating.”

The former Ohio State All-American and No. 2 pick in the draft finished as the second-leading scorer for the Indiana Fever, who compiled a league-worst 6-28 record. After Mitchell had lost only 33 games during a four-year career with the Buckeyes, the season presented a unique challenge for a player accustomed to a standard of winning.

It made Mitchell question plenty about her game and her abilities, but it also taught her a few lessons.


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“I learned a lot about trusting the process,” she said. “I learned a lot about grinding it out. I learned a lot about knowing that you can always come out on the other end. Even though we’re losing now, it won’t be like that for long. I think I learned that a lot regarding how to go about working out and how to go about getting in the gym, how to go about sitting down and relaxing to take some time off.”

Mitchell averaged 12.6 points and shot 34.0 percent from three-point range and 82.0 percent from the free-throw line, all statistics that place her among the league’s top 30 players. She made early-season highlight reels for making defenders fall over with her crossover dribbles, but the season also presented some eye-opening moments for her as well.

“My first time playing against (6-foot-8 Dallas center) Liz Cambage, I had split two defenders, was going up for a layup, and next thing I knew, I saw my layup going the other way,” Mitchell said. “But I felt like I had got up really, really high. How on earth did she just block my shot?”

The adjustment to the speed of the professional game was a challenge, but in the way Mitchell said she was expecting. Learning to play at the proper pace for the Fever proved to be the bigger challenge.

“It actually didn’t play into my hands the way I wanted it to because I played too fast and the game isn’t like that,” she said. “I’m part of a program that they’d like to (play with) pace sometimes but not always, so I think that was one of my big adjustments.”

It helped that Mitchell had a fellow Buckeye on the roster in Stephanie Mavunga, who averaged 2.2 points and 2.2 rebounds while making 25 appearances for the Fever. Although Mitchell said the two have different personalities, their viewpoints helped both cope with the team’s disappointing results.

Next, Mitchell is headed to a Team USA camp and is a member of the team’s pool hoping to earn more opportunities with the national team. Failing that, she will head overseas to play professionally in Turkey during the WNBA's offseason.

It’s all designed to help improve her game and, she hopes, the Fever’s fortunes.

“I wanted us to win so bad, and when it didn’t happen, it was, I guess, the Man Above’s way of saying it’s a process,” she said. “I don’t get it now. This feeling sucks, but all I can say is that I learned a lot in my first year.”