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Mitchell junior forward Taylor Volesky dribbles the ball during Kernel practice Wednesday at Longfellow Elementary. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

Volesky emerges for MHS girls

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Prior to the start of the 2013-14 season, the Mitchell girls’ basketball team knew it would be replacing a large portion of its scoring from previous teams.

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The growth of junior forward Taylor Volesky has not only helped fill the void left by Kerri Young and Kristin Sabers, but has helped Mitchell climb to No. 1 in the state, compiling a 17-1 record along the way.

“Coach put a lot of confidence in me before the season, expecting big numbers,” Volesky said. “He wanted me to improve on taking care of the ball and not making mistakes. To go from the limited minutes I played last year to playing the entire game almost every time is a big change.”

The change has allowed Volesky to blossom into a legitimate scoring threat for the Kernels. She is averaging 14.7 points per game, while shooting 46 percent from the field. As a sophomore in 2012-13, Volesky averaged just 10 minutes of playing time and 3.3 points per game.

“She has really grown up as a player,” Mitchell coach Wes Morgan said. “I expected the numbers that she is putting up. I know what she’s capable of.”

Volesky’s all-around game has continued to develop as well. She is pulling down 6.2 rebounds and coming away with 2.1 steals per game.

Consistency has been another staple this season for Volesky, as she has failed to put up double digits only three times, including a scoreless game against Pierre on Jan. 23, while she was battling back from a sprained ankle. The injury has not impacted her recently, as Volesky has scored at least 15 points in each of Mitchell’s last four games.

While Macy Miller has received the lion’s share of the attention this season, the emergence of Volesky has given the Kernels that secondary scoring threat teams need to worry about every time down the floor. She brings an ability to create shots for herself off the dribble and has improved her long-range shooting.

Volesky is tied for second on the team with senior Emma Schmidt with 13 made three pointer. She is shooting a team-high 35 percent from beyond the arc.

“I feel like my outside shooting has been my biggest improvement this year,” Volesky said. “It’s something that we worked on in the offseason. Getting up every morning in the summer and going to the gym for shooting.”

Miller has led the Kernels in scoring every game this season, but Volesky has finished a close second on several occasions. In the most recent game for Mitchell against Brandon Valley, Volesky exploded in the second half and looked to be in position to finish with a team-high in points for the first time this season. But Miller put up eight points in the blink of an eye, scoring 30 total, while Volesky finished with a season-high 25.

'“There are times at halftime when I will have more points and I will get on Macy a little bit,” Volesky said, adding that if she does eclipse Miller in a game this year she will definitely let her know about it.

Having Miller on the floor this year has kept teams from keying on Volesky, opening things up for her, according to Morgan.

Volesky and Miller combine to form a dynamic duo on the court averaging a combined 45 points per contest, but according to Miller the relationship starts off the court as the two have been friends since the fourth grade.

“We have been close since she moved here,” Miller said. “Having her on the floor is great because teams can’t always look at me. She has been really good at getting to the basket lately and her three-point shooting has been tremendous.”

Volesky said her schedule in the offseason included six days a week in the gym, shooting and lifting weights three times a week to get ready for the season.

Next year will bring a similar scenario for the Mitchell basketball team, as Volesky will be the only returning starter for Mitchell. Volesky sees the example Miller has set for how to help a new group of players get comfortable with increased roles.

“Macy’s game is one that I really look up to and if I can be half as good as her that would be awesome,” Volesky said with a smile. “Macy deserves all of the shine that she is getting right now.”

Volesky’s junior performance has garnered attention from the next level, as college coaches are showing an interest in the 6-foot forward. The University of South Dakota and Dakota Wesleyan University are among schools interested in her potential as a college basketball player, according to Volesky and Morgan.

“Playing Division I college basketball is a dream of mine,” Volesky said. “I’ve always wanted to play for USD.”

If Volesky were to join USD after high school she would be in direct competition with Miller, a South Dakota State signee,.

“Playing with Macy as teammates and then getting to play against each other as rivals would be a lot of fun,” Volesky said.

The Kernels continue to finish out their regular-season schedule against Watertown today at 7 p.m. in Watertown.

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