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Mercury rises for Mitchell

AUSTRALIA’s Rio Olympics starting point guard Leilani Mitchell has signed a contract extension with Phoenix Mercury which should see her conclude her WNBA career in Arizona.

Playing for Opals coach Sandy Brondello and with Australia’s stocks arguably lighter at the point than any other position, Mitchell is likely to beat out new Canberra Capitals’ WNBL teammate, FIBA Asia Cup MVP and Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist Kelsey Griffin for the one coveted naturalised player role at both the World Cup this year and 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

(Why they both can’t play, considering Mitchell’s mother is Australian, remains a FIBA technicality Basketball Australia really should fight on legal grounds because it’s truly only an issue of where Mitchell was born, not to whom, and then having to attain citizenship at a later age when she should have been a dual from birth.)

The 165cm playmaker (left) turns 33 in June and will rejoin the Mercury shortly from Hatay BSB in Turkey’s KBSL league, where she leads her team in 3-point field goal percentage (43.4), assists (4.2) and steals (1.2).

A career 39.2 per cent 3-point shooter in the WNBA, Mitchell holds the fourth-best career mark among active players and the 16th-best in league history.

She played for Phoenix in 2015, missed the 2016 season to focus on the Olympics, and finished last season as the Mercury’s starting point guard. Originally drafted by Phoenix at #25 in 2008, Mitchell was traded to New York Liberty and in 2010 won the WNBA’s Most Improved Player award.

She is coming off a 2017 season where she averaged 8.0 points and 3.6 assists - her highest marks in each of those stats since her memorable 2010 campaign (9.3 points and 3.8 assists per game) – and started in all five of the Mercury’s playoff games, averaging career playoff-highs in points (15.0) and assists (3.8), along with 1.2 steals per game.

Her contract has been extended for a further two years by Mercury which means the club believes she has plenty in the tank.

A Bronze Medallist with the Opals at the 2014 FIBA World Championship, Mitchell has played WNBL with Dandenong Rangers, twice at Sydney Flames with a stint at Adelaide Lightning in between.

She was Rachael Sporn Medallist as Grand Final MVP when Sydney Flames won the 2016-17 WNBL championship.

May 5

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