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Prep Basketball: Salisbury hires Mitchell

By Ronnie Gallagher
Salisbury Post
Andrew Mitchell doesn’t even know who will make up his starting lineup next season. But he is already looking forward to the big games on the Salisbury High girls basketball schedule.
Mitchell, a former star at North Rowan and Catawba and long-time women’s coach at Livingstone, was introduced as the new Hornets’ leader on Tuesday. It didn’t take long for him to bring up the subject of East Davidson.
Most thought Salisbury had the inside track on a state 2A title last season, but a 28-2 season wasn’t enough. Both losses came to the Golden Eagles, who eventually won the championship.
Both CCC teams are among the favorites next season, too, and the prospect of big-time basketball excites Mitchell.
“That’s the game we’re looking forward to,” Mitchell said. “I love going into games like that.”
What Mitchell loves even more is that he’s back where he belongs ó in Rowan County.
After 13 years at Livingstone, Mitchell was let go before last season. He was hired as an assistant at Kentucky State, but without his family, he yearned to return.
Salisbury principal Windsor Eagle made it happen. He brought back one of the county’s most familiar faces, choosing the 1984 North graduate over an impressive group of finalists.
“There was some tough, tough competition (for the job),” Eagle said. “We narrowed it to four, and the credentials of those four were as outstanding as you can imagine.
“But Andrew’s college exposure and knowledge of the community won us over.”If Mitchell makes Fred Campbell an honorary assistant, there’s a reason. Campbell, a former Salisbury star, is one of the reasons Mitchell is wearing red and gold.
“At the last minute, Fred called and told me about it,” Mitchell said. “Dr. Eagle gave me a call. I guess I was in the right place at the right time.”
On the court, everything’s right with Salisbury. The Hornets have been to six straight West regionals and have won 139 of their last 152 games.
Salisbury returns five of its top players in county player of the year Bubbles Phifer, point guard Shi-Heria Shipp, rebounding machine De’Rya Wylie and the versatile Holmes twins, Ashia and Ayanna.
“All of my other jobs, we started on the bottom and built them into champions,” Mitchell said.
At Livingstone, he won the CIAA tournament in 1999. He stopped Bowie’s State’s 48-game win streak and Shaw’s run of four consecutive CIAA titles.
He accomplished all of that without top-notch high school recruits. An unbelievable amount of talent is waiting on him at Salisbury.
“This time, I really get to see if I know anything,” Mitchell said. “I’m taking over a team that should win.”
All but 28 of those 152 victories since 2004 came under Jennifer Shoaf, who was suspended before last season and replaced by Dee Miller. Eagle thinks Mitchell will bring back the stability.
“A coach needs to identify with the players and identify with the community,” Eagle said. “He has a connection to the community, and he has the desire to come here and do a good job.”
Mitchell’s desire to return has as much to do with his family, which did not make the trip to Kentucky with him. But wife Sandra and children Marcus (21), Alexis (11) and Kendall (5) have their main man home again.
Kentucky State made the SIAC tournament championship game for the first time in 10 years and played in the Division II playoffs.
“The experience was good, but it was my first time away from home,” Mitchell said.
He lived in a two-bedroom apartment, and when he wasn’t coaching, he longed for his loved ones.
“It was tough being away from my family,” he said.
Mitchell now has his family with him again. And he has a new family: the Salisbury Hornets.
“It was just a blessing this situation came open,” he said.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or rgallagher@salisburypost.com.

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