ROUND 18 PLAYER PROFILE- LEILANI MITCHELL
Photo courtesy of Geoff Tripp.
In her fourth WNBL season and second with the Brydens Sydney University Flames, Leilani Mitchell looks to have her best shot at claiming a Championship in 2016/17, an accolade that has eluded her so far in her career.
The Flames currently sit on top of the ladder with two rounds remaining and can officially grab home court advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over Dandenong this weekend but even with a loss, they will still be in the box seat to finish first.
While never winning a title, success has still followed the point guard during her WNBL career after she debuted with the Rangers in 2013/14, helpingÊthem to the Preliminary Final.
She was also named in the All-Star Five but a heart-breaking three-point loss to the Fire in that finalÊsaw them miss out on theÊultimate glory.
The following year, Mitchell made the move to Sydney Uni, helping them return to the playoffs for the first time in two seasons as she led the league in assists with 5.9 per game.
The Flames then defeated Dandenong in the Semi-Final but Mitchell fell in the Preliminary Final for a second straight season, succumbing to Bendigo.
She then missed the playoffsÊfor the first time in her career during a campaign with the Lightning last season but a return to the Flames, albeit a signing that occurred very late in the off-season, has ensured she will be back in the post-season asÊSydney Uni are currently the only team assured of a playoff position.
ÒItÕs exciting to have a WNBA and Opal player here and sheÕs a person who just gets on with things,Ó coach Cheryl Chambers told Swoop at the start of the season.
ÒNothing much seems to phase her.Ó
On a six-game winning streak, the Flames are arguably the in-form team of the competition but Mitchell has warned against Sydney Uni relaxing in their last two games of the regular season.
ÒWe were too lackadaisical,ÕÕ she told Swoop of their narrow Round 17 victory over the Boomers.
ÒWeÉ need to make much better starts.
ÒItÕs great the way we can snap ourselves out of things and come through in the end. But we shouldnÕt let things get to that place.ÕÕ
Sitting ninth for points per game (15.8) and first for assists (6.2) this year, Mitchell has installed herself as one of the competitionÕs best leaders and it is her ability to control the tempo on court that has helped them to their league-leading record.
Of their 16 wins, seven have come by five points or less and MitchellÕs influence on the court has been a major factor in those wins including when she drilled the game-winner in a 77-75 Round 16 defeat of the Caps.
While the Flames have finals experienced players in Sarah Graham, Shanae Greaves and Tahlia Tupaea as well as Championship players Alex Wilson and Belinda Snell, Mitchell remains the key heading into this seasonÕs playoffs and will be eagerÊto add a WNBL title to her two career All-Star nominations.