Shameka Mitchell, normally a very jovial and easygoing person, changes once she hits the volleyball floor.
Mitchell, who, admittedly says that she is, “Really not that interesting,” seems to transform that demeanor almost instantaneously once practice or a game become a priority.
Her Hulk-like transformation is one her teammates cannot help but take notice of.
“She expects everyone to play hard and bring it,” sophomore setter Lisa Tedder said. “She’s a key contributor and provides good veteran leadership.”
Just what type of leadership was Tedder’s referring to?
The kind that finds Mitchell leading the team in kills 16 games into the regular season in only her first year here. Or finds her being named the most valuable player of the Bucknell Invitational this past weekend in Pennsylvania and leading the team to a victory over Hofstra in the Queens-Nassau Cup for the first time since the tournament was founded in. Or being what other teammates have described as an energy source from which to draw.
The St. John’s volleyball team’s co-captain (along with senior Anicia Wood) was born and raised in Lakeland, Fla. Lakeland is a city that has approximately 78,452 people in it (according to the 2000 census).
To put that in perspective, New York City has 8,008,278 people settled within its borders (according to the 2000 census). Although the population differential is a big one, Mitchell doesn’t seem to mind it too much.
The graduate student says that after graduation, she “wants to travel and see new places.”
As a youth, Mitchell excelled in four major sports. She competed in track and field (4×100 relay, 100m, 400m, long jump, triple jump), softball (catcher/first base), basketball (power forward), and her current forte, volleyball. Being a well rounded athlete has helped her, at 5-foot-10, become a more athletic person and enabled her to take a good approach even with her lack of size, in comparison to some of her competition.
“I don’t mind being shorter than some of my competition at all,” Mitchell said. “It actually helps me out. When I look across the net and see other girls playing my position at 6-feet and up, and they look at me, they don’t know what to expect. I use it as a motivating factor for my game.”
Although Mitchell is a proven leader by numbers alone, she makes sure that she helps keep the rest of the team where they should be.
Mitchell, an All-American honorable mention last season, was a star with South Florida, a team that has now entered the Big East this season. But because of conference rules, Mitchell is not able to play in the match the Red Storm play against her former team. She has made a seamless transition thus far as the premiere player for St. John’s, especially with added pressure because of the loss of Jackie Ahlers, a fellow All-American honorable mention.
Ahlers, out because of personal problems this season, is the Big East single-season leader in kills. But Mitchell has not felt the pressure.
The team’s resident “tough guy” says, “I have been in their shoes before and I took it for granted. After taking a year off last year, now I have a real passion for the game. I just want to make sure that they don’t take their opportunity for granted.”