Wednesday, May 22, 2013
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Dallas High School senior Jessica Mitchell is the Polk County girls basketball player of the year for the second straight season.
March 13, 2013
DALLAS -- Usually, when a player scores his or her 1,000th point, it's a big deal.
Usually, there's a countdown leading up to the millenium mark. Other times, an announcement is made after the feat has occurred.
The fanfare even generally includes a special honorary basketball that's presented to the individual in front of their hometown crowd.
In what probably best describes her humble personality, however, Jessica Mitchell never thought about point totals during her four-year career on the Dallas High varsity girls basketball team.
Actually, the senior post had no idea she was even close to the milestone.
"I didn't know," she said of her accomplishments with a laugh, standing alone in the gym where she put together a four-year total many would be envious of -- 1,128 points and 755 rebounds.
Now that she knows, of course, it's a feat that she can't help but smile about.
"It just feels really good thinking about all the games you have to play and having the ability to do that," Mitchell said. "It's been really awesome."
Mitchell saved her best season for last by averaging a double-double in her senior campaign, even when the opposing team's game plan was often to stop her.
For her play this year, Mitchell has been selected as the Itemizer-Observer's 2012-13 Polk County Player of the Year for high school girls basketball -- her second straight honor, as she also earned the award for the 2011-12 season.
The 5-foot-11 post averaged 15.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.0 steals, 2.8 assists and shot 59 percent from the field for the Dragons, who finished the season with a 13-11 overall record and tied for fourth in a tough Mid-Willamette Conference that saw its top three teams -- West Albany, Corvallis and Lebanon -- place in the Class 5A state tournament. Mitchell was selected to the all-MWC's first-team for the first time this year.
A major part of Mitchell's success has been her ability to constantly improve. Her points, rebounds, steals and assists marks are all career-bests, and she ranked as the Dallas leader in every above category except assists and field goal percentage.
"As her freshman year progressed, it was `All she can do is post up,' so then she worked on her jump shot," Dallas coach Dave Brautigam, who coached Mitchell all four seasons, said. "By the time she got to her junior and senior years, she had to take on that load of learning how to be a scorer. She continually wants to be better and I don't think she ever realized how good she was until this year and how she could actually have a future in basketball."
Mitchell's college plans, for now, are undecided, but she's leaning toward Corban University in Salem, with George Fox, Western Oregon, Linn-Benton Community College and Umpqua CC on her radar.
So how did Jessica Mitchell's love affair with the basketball court -- even her voicemail says she's probably out shooting hoops -- begin?
Jessica Mitchell drives to the basket in a game earlier this season.
"Nobody knew -- she like came out of nowhere. Nobody knew that she was that good," Mitchell's younger sister and sophomore teammate, Sarah, said of Jessica's freshman season.
Jessica Mitchell spent that season first as a junior varsity/varsity swing player, then moved full-time to varsity, and then by the start of the conference season was inserted into the starting lineup. It was a move that brought with it some sensitive family implications -- Jessica ended up playing over her then-senior teammate and older sister, Allyson.
Allyson -- who, along with parents Patrick and Kristy, now attend every game, home or away -- though, didn't create any friction.
"Allyson was really graceful about it, which was nice," Sarah Mitchell said.
Added Jessica: "I'm sure it was awkward (for her) and it was awkward for me, but she just kind of supported me, so it was cool. (The family support is totally there) -- she comes to every one of our games, so that's cool."
Mitchell jumped out of the gate her junior season as the team's leading scorer, but it was her ability to mesh with and lead a 2012-13 team full of youth -- six sophomores graced the varsity roster -- that stood out to her coach and to her younger sister, who was able to start on the same team as Jessica for the first time in their careers.
"Oh yeah, (I look up to her)," Sarah Mitchell said of Jessica. "Just the way she is on the court -- she's a vocal leader, but then again she leads by example and everybody's looking up to her."
A likable leader, Jessica Mitchell will go down in Dallas High history as one of the best girls basketball players to compete in the program.
With her always positive, cheerful demeanor, it's difficult to think anyone would want anything different for the senior.
"She's genuine and she really cares about people," Brautigam said. "She's a great kid and I'm going to miss her big time."
JESSICA MITCHELL BY THE NUMBERS
1,128 -- Total points scored during Jessica Mitchell's four-year career (96 games), believed to rank in the top five -- if not the best mark -- in all-time school history. Records were not available for all-time points leaders at DHS.
755 -- Mitchell's career rebound total. That's good for 7.9 a game. As a senior, she pulled down 10.2 boards per contest to go along with her 15.2 points per game.
5 -- Contests in Mitchell's career -- twice as a sophomore, once as a junior and twice as a senior -- that she tallied 20 rebounds or more.
DHS HISTORY QUESTION
Dallas High doesn't keep girls basketball scoring records, but Jessica Mitchell's 1,128 career points is believed to be near the top, if not the top scoring mark in school history. Do you think you know of anyone that might trump that mark in Dragons girls basketball history dating to 1976 -- when the Oregon School Activities Association official records for girls basketball state championships begins -- to today? If you think you do, contact Sports Editor Nicole Watkins at email@example.com or 503-623-2373.