Head women’s basketball coach Amy Williams once told her team that in order to be a good team, you have to be a great teammate. That message stuck with senior guard/forward Grace Mitchell throughout her time at Nebraska and continues to drive her thoughts and actions.
“Grace is the definition of a perfect teammate,” senior guard Hannah Whitish said.
Williams described Mitchell as selfless and discussed how she continues to give motivation and excitement to her teammates.
Love is a word that is very meaningful to Mitchell and is her key to being a great teammate. Junior guard/forward Taylor Kissinger recently had a season-ending hip injury and it was important to Mitchell that Kissinger felt loved and appreciated during this hard time.
“Going over to her house and just showing her some love, like she’s going through a real tough time,” Mitchell said. “She had her appendix taken out a couple days after her hip surgery and it’s just sometimes it feels like the world never stops trying to beat you down.”
Ex-NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has always been a role model for Mitchell. She admires how he respected his teammates through his actions and how he shared his faith through sports. Both of those aspects are important to Mitchell.
Mitchell’s faith is a big part of her life and during the last four years, she’s held a pregame Bible study before each game.
“The growth, attendance and involvement from my teammates has just been unbelievable over the past four years,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell grew up going to church every Sunday with her family. Her time in college has caused her faith to grow immensely through facing adversity and tough times, some of which have come from basketball.
“When you [give your all to Christ], you just feel so free that no matter what the results are today, no matter what the scoreboard is, no matter what stats show, I know where my eternity lies and just that peace and joy that comes from that is so freeing,” Mitchell said.
Something the whole team prides itself on is the bond they have on and off the court. This comes from putting an emphasis on building relationships with each team member, something Mitchell and her fellow seniors strive for.
“On the weekends a lot of times when we’re not playing basketball, we’re still hanging out with each other because we just like to be around each other,” Mitchell said.
When freshmen come in, it’s important for the upperclassmen to show them the standards right away, including how Huskers are supposed to act in the classroom, on the court and in their personal lives.
Mitchell’s freshman year was Williams’ first year as the Huskers’ head coach, so Mitchell has seen the program grow through her years.
“When we came in, because it’s a new system and new style, we asked [Mitchell] to change positions and that’s not an easy change, but she just embraced that and does whatever we’ve asked her to do,” Williams said. “She’s always done that and just been a team player for four years and continues to impress me.”
The team went 7-22 during Mitchell’s freshman year and she noted how not only has the team improved on the court since then, but they’ve also improved in the classroom.
“I think our coach would be proud to say that our GPA has increased since our freshman year,” Mitchell said with a grin.
A goal for the team last season was to return to the NCAA Tournament, but it didn’t quite get there. That caused an increase in intensity and drive to make this season different.
“It definitely just lit a fire underneath us that that’s not going to be the same way ... this year,” Mitchell said. “This season we’re determined. We’re making that tournament and we’re winning games in the tournament.”
Staying consistent and showing up everyday and improving has been crucial for the team this season.
“It’s not one person that’s going to do it, it’s all 13 of us,” Mitchell said. “It’s just the beauty of sports. You see us on game day and it’s not always good, it’s not always a perfect result but every single day we’re going to strive to get better and we believe we will get better.”
An important reminder for Mitchell keeps in mind during practices is that it only takes one person to bring the energy and encourage others and then it soon becomes contagious.