From Shooting On A Makeshift Hoop To Being A NJCAA All-American
DENTON — When North Texas women’s basketball’s junior college all-American transfer Velma Mitchell arrived to Denton for summer workouts she came a week before she could participate.
Even though Velma Mitchell couldn’t do team activities, it didn’t stop her from being with her new team at every single practice and workout, including waking up early on a Friday to support her teammates in a 6:00 am lift.
That’s nothing new for her, though. Not too long after verbally committing to North Texas, Velma Mitchell made the three and a half hour trek from her hometown of Rockdale, Texas, to the Ford Center in Frisco to cheer on the Mean Green from the stands as the team made its run in the Conference USA Basketball Championship.
Now a few weeks in to team participation and the 5-foot-9 guard who averaged nearly 18 points per game the year she was named a NJCAA All-American at McLennan Community College has further established herself as a terrific basketball player and teammate.
“Velma is a winner,” said head coach Jalie Mitchell. “On and off the court daily she proves she is here to make a difference. She is extremely coachable with an incredible work ethic. She is a leader vocally and by example. Velma is everything we thought she would be and more.”
How Velma Mitchell got to be so good and the love and passion she has for the game began on a humble hoop outside of her small town Texas home.
“This hoop could tell stories,” Velma Mitchell said. “Every day me and my (twin) brother would go out there and play, sometimes late at night.”
The basket, which her father and grandfather set up, is attached to a pole that over time has turned rusted. It’s a clear plastic backboard and the pole is planted in the grass on the edge that borders the road.
Using the road as their blacktop and sometimes the streetlight as their source to stay out late, Velma Mitchell and her brother worked on their skills and challenged their competitive old man.
“My dad took no mercy,” Velma Mitchell said with a laugh. “He’s a great basketball player and taught us a lot. But so did lots of other people. It takes a village and the Rockdale community, which might only have a few stoplights and isn’t known as a basketball powerhouse, taught us.”
It’s a community that has supported Velma Mitchell and her brother’s dreams. When she committed to play at UNT and he committed to Texas A&M, they made their announcement on Facebook and former neighbor commented “…I remember y’all always playing basketball in the street as I drove by when you were younger, now look where y’all are!”
No matter the weather, Velma Mitchell and her brother were outside on the road playing. Even during the winter when they had to wear gloves.
Battered and worn, the hoop went through countless makeovers but finally met its match one winter day when the ice had frozen the backboard and on a simple layup it shattered.
“The hoop is still there,” Velma Mitchell said. “It’s lower now but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. It’s where we learned how to shoot and compete against each other.”