“Yeah,” she said, without cracking a smile.
Right then, Mark Mitchell knew he had a coach’s daughter. “Whatever you do,” he told her, “don’t lose that.”
Kelsey Mitchell eventually managed to get her hands on the ball and make Ohio State, Big Ten and college women’s basketball history. Her uncharacteristically tranquil 11-point performance in the Buckeyes’ 87-45 victory over George Washington in the first round of the N.C.A.A. tournament on Saturday gave her 3,374 for her career — third-most on the N.C.A.A. women’s career list across all divisions, behind Kelsey Plum (3,527) and Jackie Stiles (3,393).
Stiles, a 2001 Southwest Missouri State graduate, could be surpassed on Monday night if Mitchell gets even close to her season’s scoring average of 24.1 in a second-round game against Central Michigan. Plum, whose explosive career at Washington concluded last year, is a less realistic target, requiring an exacta of uninhibited shotmaking by Mitchell and a run by the 28-6 Buckeyes to the national championship game on April 1.
That game, no fooling, will be played at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, a seductive pot at the end of Mitchell’s college career rainbow.
“You don’t want to jump too far ahead but to have it in the back of your mind is totally O.K. with me,” said Mitchell, a 5-foot-8-inch southpaw-shooting guard.
Just winning Monday night and getting through the Spokane Region, where Notre Dame and Oregon are top seeds, would represent a collective flourish to a career perhaps too much defined by individual achievement. When barriers fall, heads turn. In late January, Mitchell blew past Laura Malernee of West Liberty, a Division II program, with her 442nd 3-point shot. Her record total reached 491 Saturday, when she connected on her only long ball in six attempts against George Washington.
The other race she’s in, unwittingly until apprised of it on Friday, is against Travis Bader, formerly of Oakland University in Michigan, who holds the Division I record for career 3-pointers with 504.
Had Mitchell heard the name?
“No,” she said, shrugging while leaning against a wall outside the Ohio State locker room.
“He’s the D-I men’s leader with 504,” she was told.
She laughed and said, “Kind of cool, definitely. I got to meet that guy, if he’s got that many 3s.”
That won’t happen soon, even if Mitchell gets hot enough from behind basketball’s most relished line and leads the Buckeyes back home to the Final Four. Bader is playing professionally in Larissa, Greece, from where he wrote in an email to say he had heard about Mitchell last summer while working out at Michigan State and how “she could get close to the record.”
“The 3-point shot has changed the game from how it was played in the past so to be able to see my name at the top of that list is surreal,” Bader wrote. “A lot of people think that shooting the basketball is a gift. The truth is, it’s nothing but hard work. So huge congratulations and much respect to Kelsey Mitchell whether she breaks the record or not.”
Female basketball players often admire and follow male stars — Mitchell mentioned LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving and Lonzo Ball while shrugging off the question of personal women’s favorites. They seldom dwell on crossover records, acknowledging the differences in the games, especially in college, where the best men’s players are often one-and-done temps.
Mitchell does have a history of running with the guys, though, beginning when her mother, Cheryl, became her youth basketball coach and rounded up neighborhood boys for her team to practice against.
Cheryl Mitchell played basketball at Eastern Kentucky, once holding that university’s rebounding record. There she met Mark, a star lineman on the football team, who had a couple looks at N.F.L. training camps. They married, had two sets of twins four years apart and set about growing an all-in basketball family.
Mark Mitchell walked away from football on wobbly knees, made his way into basketball coaching and landed at Taft, where his sons — Cameron and Kevin, now 26 — played for him before starring at small colleges. Kelsey and her twin, Chelsea, played at Princeton High closer to home, in Cincinnati, with Kelsey establishing herself as an elite recruit by senior year.
Given her family connections to the sport, she knows it was almost preordained that she would play basketball.
“Growing up, with the Barbie dolls and cheerleading, I tried but I couldn’t get into it,” she said. “So I stuck with what my brothers did. They went outside and played with the boys on the court, so I went out and played with them, too.”
Cheryl Mitchell coached her daughters’ A.A.U. teams and then it was her husband’s turn. He was hired as an Ohio State assistant when the girls were high school seniors by Kevin McGuff, the incoming Buckeyes’ coach, who had worked in the area at Xavier before spending two years at Washington, where he happened to recruit Kelsey Plum.
Consider the hiring — and perhaps Chelsea’s inclusion as a scholarship player — a case of fortuitous timing and parental leverage, though Mark Mitchell’s 221-50 record at Taft and familiar name in a natural talent market for Ohio State was an attraction for McGuff as he filled out his staff.
The adjustment to having her father in the gym was not easy, Kelsey said. Coach Mitch, as she refers to him, made a habit of calling her out for questionable shot selection and excess dribbling — all the things she got away with in high school but would pay for against elite college competition.
“I used to take it personal — why is he getting on me like that?” she said. “But the older I got, I’ve come to realize that in the gym he’s my coach more than he’s my dad. It may not have started out that way, but me and my sister have respect for his career, how hard he’s worked at it.”
Off the court, Cheryl Mitchell stresses greater contextual awareness for a growing number of female players whose mothers played the game and know firsthand of how far it’s come. She has regaled her daughters with stupefying stories of yore, how in her first year of organized competition, seventh grade, ancient rules were still in effect — three defensive players on one side the floor, three offensive on the other, never to cross into forbidden territory.
“I remind Kelsey and Chelsea all the time, `Y’all have steak and potatoes, we had spaghetti,’” Cheryl Mitchell said after watching the George Washington game alongside Chelsea, who is not playing this semester in order to focus on academics.
George Washington is coached by Jennifer Rizzotti, a former Connecticut star, whose strategy was designed to head Mitchell off at the point of attack and take her chances with other shooters. It worked for a quarter. Confronted with double-team attention, Mitchell was not allowed to get into her shooting rhythm. But her penetration and canny passing produced seven of Ohio State’s 20 assists on 33 made baskets in 59 attempts, or 55.9 percent, as the 6-foot-3 Stephanie Mavunga dominated inside.
Afterward, Rizzotti called it a preview of how Mitchell would most likely have to play as a point guard in the W.N.B.A. and how making that adjustment was “the sign of a great player.”
McGuff had been telling Mitchell as much since her first game, when she scored 25 points on 25 shots in a display of freshman audacity. He has cited Plum’s growth at Washington from junior to senior year, to more selective shot taker from volume gunner. That, in turn, produced career highs in field goal and 3-point shooting percentages as a senior.
Mitchell got the message and did likewise. An invitation last September to attend a national team camp — “surrounded by greatness,” she said — reinforced it.
“I don’t have a team that’s dependent on everything that I do,” she said. “I have a team where everybody wants to make plays.”
They need the ball first, and if it means a better chance at saying goodbye to Columbus at the Final Four, she is happy to pass it or fetch it.
When the Buckeyes appeared for the start of the second half on Saturday, there were no balls for them to shoot with. Spotting a rack at the other end of the floor, Mitchell sprinted over and pushed it back.
A coach’s daughter would do no less.