From a Bear to a Bulldog

Published 9:30 am Friday, June 7, 2024

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AHOSKIE – From the time she first hung out at the basketball gym with her dad roughly 10 years ago, Jaliyah Mitchell has looked forward to this day.

It arrived on the last day of May.

Mitchell, Hertford County High School’s leading scorer and rebounder this past season, has signed a scholarship with Barton College where she will continue her education and basketball career.

“I chose Barton because I feel it’s the best option for me. I really liked it there during my visit,” said the 5’-11” senior who also had scholarship offers from Division III schools and junior colleges.

At Barton she plans to major in sports medicine.

Mitchell’s love of basketball started early, accompanying her father (Tony) to the Town of Ahoskie gym where he taught her the fundamentals of the game. At age 10 she started playing with the Ahoskie Youth Basketball League. From there she was a member of the Hertford County Middle School girls basketball team in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.

At Hertford County High School, Mitchell joined a team coached by Hermea Pugh.

“It was kind’a hard at first, but I knew if I wanted to play at the next level I had to work hard,” Mitchell stressed. “Coach Pugh pushed me. He and my other coaches saw the potential I didn’t see in myself.”

She readily admits that coach Pugh took her game to another level.

“He will run you hard, but it always comes down to who is conditioned the best late in a game. I like to run, I like to out-hustle someone for a loose ball,” Mitchell stated. “I knew that I had to step up my game in my senior year. I had to come out of my shell and take charge.”

In her freshman year, one impacted by COVID-19 that resulted in the team playing only six games, the Lady Bears posted a 5-1 record. Mitchell averaged just over 2 points per game, but showed promise on the boards where she hauled down 5.6 rebounds per game.

“I remember her freshman year, the first game vs. Greenville Rose, she grabbed a rebound and went coast to coast for a basket. I knew right then she was going to be special,” recalled coach Pugh.

In her sophomore season, the Lady Bears were loaded with senior talent – to include Desiree Askew. They were the undefeated conference champions and posted a 23-4 overall record. Mitchell averaged 3.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game that season.

Those numbers rose dramatically in her junior season (2022-23) where Mitchell averaged 10.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game to help the Lady Bears post a 17-9 overall record.

This past season (2023-24), Mitchell averaged a “double-double” (20.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game). The Lady Bears finished 19-9 overall.

“Jaliyah has put in the work. She’s dedicated to improving her game and the stats back that up,” Pugh noted.

“But it wasn’t just about her game,” the coach continued. “She wanted everyone around her to play their best, to elevate their game and elevate their intensity.

“We’ve had a good run of success over the past four seasons, and Jaliyah has been a big part of that,” he added. “The communication and the chemistry between the girls is a key to that success.”

Pugh strongly believes that Mitchell will succeed in college.

“Jaliyah wanted to play at the next level and she’s ready to meet that challenge head-on. She has the tenacity and the willpower to do better. She’ll do well at Barton,” he said.

While she waits to report to Barton in August, Mitchell said she doesn’t plan to take any time off.

“I’ll be in the gym all summer to stay in shape,” she said.

The only other major activity planned for this summer is to circle the Barton vs. Chowan games once the 2024-25 basketball schedules are released. Mitchell said she can’t wait to go head-to-head on the basketball court vs. Desiree Askew, a rising junior at Chowan University.

“I’ll be ready; I’m looking forward to that matchup,” Mitchell said with a grin.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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