Atlanta – When Georgia Tech women’s basketball standout Janie Mitchell was growing up, she knew that athletics was going to be part of her life. She just was not aware of how much it was going to pay off.
“My parents are very athletic,” said Mitchell. “My mother played at Georgia and my father played baseball at a community college in Mississippi.”
Her mother, the former Deborah Mitchell, starred for Tech’s biggest rival, the University of Georgia, during the 1980-81 season and garnered Freshman All-America honors. She led the Bulldogs in scoring, averaging 17.6 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game.
“She coached me throughout,” said Mitchell of her mother. “She ended up teaching me some of the intangibles that I would have never learned without her assistance.”
With her father, James Smith, playing baseball throughout his life, Janie began playing baseball with boy’s during her early childhood days, along with soccer. It was not until she reached seven years old, she decided to play basketball.
“Everyone thought I would be good at it because I was tall,” said Mitchell. “I started in a YMCA league and it took me awhile to actually start learning everything. I wasn’t the best player on the team.”
That would quickly change though. Mitchell continued to grow, along with her basketball skills and became one of the top recruits in the nation. She was named Gatorade Mississippi Player of the Year as a senior and chose to attend Tech.
“I fell for the staff,” said Mitchell. “We have a really young staff and they’re able to understand me and I understand them. I was attracted to the academics here at Tech [as well]. Of course they are going to be challenging, but I feel like if you just tough it out, then you will be highly rewarded at the end when you graduate. I also was attracted to the city of Atlanta.”
Now a junior at Tech, the Jackson, Miss., native is beginning to follow in her mother’s footsteps as the team’s leading scorer. After a career-high 26-point effort against the eighth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, Mitchell leads the team and ranks third in the Atlantic Coast Conference, scoring 17.7 points per game. She also stands 10th in the ACC with 8.2 rebounds per game.
“I pretty much play my position and do whatever is asked of me by the coaching staff,” said Mitchell. “We all know that Chioma [Nnamaka] and Stephanie [Higgs] are great scorers, but lately they’ve needed me to step up more than I’ve had to in the past. I don’t think of it as taking over the starting scorer position, just doing what I have to do to help the team win.”
The Yellow Jackets (3-3) dropped three consecutive tough games, two on the road, Temple (76-62) and San Diego (62-59), plus one more at home against No. 8 Georgia, 79-69. However, that does not faze Mitchell and her teammates.
“We’ve learned that during crunch time we have to continue to do the things that got us the lead,” said Mitchell. “You can’t start being conservative and play to win, and not play not to lose.”
Something that the Jackets suffered during the 2005-06 season in ACC play. Dubbed as most as the top conference in basketball, the Yellow Jackets feel like this year’s non-conference schedule will have them better prepared and their slogan says it all, “Fired Up to Finish!”