Sharp-shooting Taylor Mikesell making case for Indiana Fever roster spot

INDIANAPOLIS -- Taylor Mikesell hasn't put it this way to Kelsey Mitchell yet, but in a way, Mitchell is the reason Mikesell is here.

Both Indiana Fever sharpshooters are Ohio natives -- Mitchell from Cincinnati in the Buckeye State's southwest corner and Mikesell from Masillon in its northeast quadrant. Both played college ball at Ohio State -- Mitchell for four years and Mikesell for two in what was her third stop in five years of college basketball.

But Mikesell picked Columbus as her final destination in large part because of what she saw Mitchell do there when Mikesell was in high school, and that's a big part of the reason why she ended up one of the most prolific shooters in women's college basketball the last two seasons, which in turn is a big reason why the Fever picked her with the first pick of the second round, 13th overall, in this year's WNBA draft.

Scroll to continue with content

Mikesell is in a battle for a roster spot with the Fever down to 15 players and needing to cut down to 12 by May 18. She is one of 11 players remaining who are in either their first or second year in the WNBA. But she's making her case with a lights-out shooting performance in camp that has impressed even Mitchell, who finished sixth in the WNBA in scoring last season.

"Man, laser," Mitchell said. "LA-SER. I mean, I just admire the way she shoots the ball. Defensively, when we have to guard her I take the challenge. If you can guard that, even though she's a rookie, you can kinda get up on anybody shot wise. She reminds me a lot of Sammy Whitcomb from Seattle. When I see her shoot the ball at such a high level, you kinda laugh because it's literally funny that she shoots the ball that amazingly. I'm a proud Buckeye."

From the time she was young, Mikesell focused on her outside shot primarily out of necessity, because it was her only hope of beating her older brother.

"I realized I wasn't going to be 6 feet tall or the fastest person on the court," Mikesell said. "I've always loved basketball. I grew up around my older brother, probably started playing basketball around age 3. It's always something I've done. I've played against guys my whole life. I wasn't overly athletic, but my skill set was something I could home in on and focus on. That's kind of where I took it. The farther I could shoot, they had to guard me that far out which, in a pick-up game, people don't like to do that."


More Fever coverage: The Indiana Fever have three cuts left to make, and they'll be difficult

She learned her form and technique from her father, who she said "is like 5-5" with five other siblings, so he had to be able to shoot from outside to make an impact in backyard basketball as well. Once she picked it up she kept working and became one of the most dynamic high school scorers in Ohio. She averaged 30.7 points per game as a senior at Jackson High School, scored 2,175 points in her career, and set a Scott County record with 60 points in a game, hitting 14 of 17 3-point attempts in that game.

Despite being recruited by her home state school, she started her career at Maryland where she was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, hitting 95 3-pointers and averaging 13.4 points per game as a freshman. She got fewer shots as a sophomore and averaged 11.2 points per game that year, then transferred to Oregon where she got even fewer opportunities, scoring 9.3 points per game on a college-career-low 8.3 field goal attempts.

Of course, that was the COVID year and didn't count against her eligibility, so she still had two years remaining and decided to make another move. She picked Ohio State because she saw what coach Kevin McGuff's offense allowed Mitchell to do there. Mitchell graduated as the second all-time leading scorer in Division I women's college basketball history with 3,402 points, averaging 24.5 points per game over her career. She averaged 18.4 field goal attempts per game in her career, including 9.3 3-point attempts each night, hitting 497 3-pointers in four seasons.


"I don't even know if Kelsey Mitchell knows this, but she's one of the reasons why I chose Ohio State," Mikesell said. "The freedom coach McGuff gave Kelsey on the floor was something I was looking for. ... When you give somebody that much freedom, it actually takes away mistakes at the same time. You let people loose and let people do what they do, which is how coach McGuff coaches which is something I really wanted."

At one of the first summer workouts she attended, she found out just how much freedom she would have.

"I think my first day of practice with Ohio State in the summer, I think I shot a shot from the logo and I missed it,' Mikesell said. "He looked at me and he was like, 'That was a good shot, shoot it again.' In a sense it was really the freedom. He gave me the ultimate green light, which is something as a shooter as a scorer that you want. If he lets you shoot any shot, that's a liberating feeling on the court. He trusted my instincts and my ability which is something I was looking for."

In two seasons at Ohio State, she averaged 17.9 points per game averaging 14.3 field goal attempts per game with 7.6 of those coming from beyond the arc. In two seasons, she hit 230 3s, finishing third in Division I with 116 last season behind only Iowa's Caitlin Clark and Virginia Tech's Georgia Amoore.


Mikesell knows with the Fever she won't get the same kind of green light, at least not right away. She'll have to battle just to keep a roster spot, and then for minutes. Mitchell has the starting shooting guard position locked up and the Fever have another sharp-shooting wing in Victoria Vivians.

But her teammates can tell already that she knows what opportunities to take and which ones to pass up, and the ways she can be a weapon as a floor spacer.

"Taylor's great, man," veteran point guard Erica Wheeler said. "As you know, she's a sniper, man. She can shoot the ball. Just her pace and her IQ for the game. At times when you have shooters, they don't know sometimes when to shoot the ball. Every Taylor shoots is a good shot. She never takes a bad shot. If she's open, she's going to take a shot. If she's not, she's going to make a basketball read. It's been great to see her just play basketball."

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Ohio State grad Taylor Mikesell brings marksmanship to Indiana Fever