2-time SEC player of year Tiffany Mitchell has foot surgery
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina's two-time Southeastern Conference player of the year Tiffany Mitchell is recovering after foot surgery last week.
The injury to her left foot shouldn't keep Mitchell out of the lineup when the Gamecocks open the season in November, the school said in a statement Thursday.
Mitchell, who helped the Gamecocks reach the NCAA Final Four last season, injured her ankle in an exhibition game for the U.S. team ahead of the Pan Am Games last month. She didn't play and remained with the team, but was on crutches when she returned to campus.
A stress-related injury was discovered in her foot by the school's medical director, and it required surgery. Coach Dawn Staley declined comment on Mitchell's injury through a team spokeswoman.
Mitchell, a 5-foot-9 guard from Charlotte, North Carolina, has been the centerpiece of South Carolina's rise in the SEC and helped the team reach No. 1 in the national polls.
She's led the team in scoring the past two seasons, averaging 15.5 points as a sophomore in 2013-14 when the Gamecocks won their first conference crown and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Mitchell scored 14.4 points a game last season, leading South Carolina to a second straight SEC regular-season crown, its first league tournament title and the Final Four.
The Gamecocks have gone 25-8, 29-5 and 34-3 in Mitchell's first three seasons.
Mitchell, Khadijah Sessions and Asia Dozier are all returning starters who will be seniors this fall. Mitchell hasn't always been the vocal of leaders, preferring to let her actions on the court show the way.
However, Staley has said Mitchell must step forward now that Aleighsa Welch is playing professional basketball in Portugal.
''I just started this summer embracing the leadership role,'' Mitchell said in June. ''I'm just taking it on full force. Trying to be more vocal and get us on the same page.''
The Gamecocks will open the season at home against Ohio State, an NCAA Tournament team last season. They also will have home games with women's basketball power Duke and defending national champion Connecticut.
Should Mitchell's recovery go more slowly than anticipated, the Gamecocks have 10 players returning from the Final Four squad. That includes SEC freshman of the year A'ja Wilson and 6-4 Alaina Coates, who followed Mitchell in scoring.
Wilson led the American Under-19 team to the gold medal at the FIBA World Championships this summer. However, Wilson returned in a walking boot after spraining her left ankle in the competition. She said last week she'd be better in a couple of weeks.
Coates was part of the American team that took silver at the Pan Am Games.