By Mike Dyer
Princeton’s Mitchell, Fairmont’s Westbeld and Reynoldsburg’s Rice make famed rosters
Cincinnati Princeton girls’ basketball coach Jill Phillips had Kelsey Mitchell in her math class last year and learned a great deal about the basketball standout – from an academic standpoint.
What struck Phillips wasn’t necessarily that Mitchell was conscientious about her school work, but rather the All-American guard wanted to know beyond just the simple answer on a graphing calculator.
During one class, Mitchell raised her hand and asked Phillips about a particular problem and didn’t rely exclusively on the calculator. Phillips noticed Mitchell had critical thinking skills and a significant desire to learn not always apparent in other students.
So when Mitchell was selected as a McDonald’s All American on Wednesday night on a nationally-televised and streamed show on ESPNU, Phillips had goosebumps not only for the honor and recognition for the school, but also the awareness that Mitchell is completely deserving of attention as a student-athlete.
“Every drill in practice she gives 100 percent,” Phillips told Cincinnati.com earlier this week. “She never takes a practice or game off. She gives her best – I don’t think you see that all the time (in others) – it is rare.”
Before last week’s game at Hamilton, Mitchell took her pre-calculus homework with her to complete before the Saturday game since it was due Monday.
Watching Mitchell on the court is a reminder of how special she is with the ball in her hands whether it’s from a scoring production angle or vision of the court and her teammates. Wednesday night, she scored 30 points against Fairfield – the fourth time this year she had at least 30 points in a game.
Mitchell averages 25.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.7 steals. To be selected to the McDonald’s All American game is a dream for her and one she will certainly cherish.
Mitchell is the second Princeton player to be chosen for the prestigious game. Ironically, Phillips coached Dee Davis when she was selected in 2003. The game was in Cleveland that year and Phillips said it was very special getting to watch LeBron James that year.
Mitchell, who is signed with Ohio State, will be the eighth McDonald’s All American for Ohio State when she steps on campus this summer. She is the first since Taylor Hill in 2009.
When the McDonald’s Game occurs April 2 in Chicago on ESPNU, Mitchell will be joined by Kettering Fairmont’s Kathryn Westbeld (Notre Dame signee) on the East squad. That is fitting given both are friends and played on the same AAU team for several years.
Fairmont coach Lacy Romine said Westbeld is a class act and deserves all the success she’s had.
“She has worked hard for her entire career to get to this point,” Romine said. “She earned it. I can’t think of anyone else more deserving than Kathryn Westbeld.”
The West squad will feature Reynoldsburg’s Alyssa Rice (Kentucky signee).
With Mitchell, Rice and Westbeld, Ohio occupies 12.5 percent of the 24 slots and that is very significant, according to Ohio Girls’ Basketball Report director Tom Jenkins.
“The selection of Kelsey (Mitchell), Alyssa (Rice) and Kathryn (Westbeld) as McDonald’s All Americans reflects the respect that Ohio has across the country in terms of high end quality girls basketball,” Jenkins said.
“Having three McDonald’s All-Americans in the 2014 class is second only to the class of 2003 when Ohio produced five McDonald’s All-Americans. In talking with seven or eight members of the McDonald’s selection committee, Ohio year in year out has six to eight players deserving of this recognition.”
Mike Dyer is the high school sports editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati.com.