(Photo Credit: James Coreas/North Texas Daily)
With the NBA draft closing in, a player worth mentioning is University of North Texas power forward Tony Mitchell.
Mitchell is worth mentioning because he is the lone player from a Texas college with a first round grade, could be a possible pick for the Dallas Mavericks if they were to trade the 13th pick and most important of all he is the definition of a high risk-high reward player.
I had the opportunity to cover Mitchell’s freshmen season in its entirety and spent time on and off the UNT men’s basketball beat during his sophomore season.
While watching Mitchell, I witnessed two different players in his time with the Mean Green.
The first year, Mitchell looked like a player that was determined to be recognized and make a name for himself. If he didn’t miss the first nine games of the season due to academic issues he would have been the unanimous Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year and the SBC Player of the Year.
The season ended with a last second loss in the Sun Belt tournament finals and fuelled his decision to return for his second season.
During the offseason, the Mean Green underwent a coaching change has Johnny Jones headed to LSU to coach for his alma mater.
Afterwards, Mitchell could not live up to the expectations he set for himself after his first year as the coaching change highly effected Mitchell’s play and the team’s performance.
Mitchell showed that he is not as a sure thing NBA prospect that everyone makes him out to be.
When I look at Mitchell is see a raw prospect that has the athleticism to take the Sports Center highlight reel away from Blake Griffin. His talent right now is good enough to provide a spark in short time off the bench and would likely stay this way into his third, maybe fourth year as a pro before he gets a spot in a team’s starting lineup.
While I say that drafting Mitchell will be a work in progress and even a potential bust, I understand the serious appeal of this draftee.
A 6’8” forward with a 7’3” wingspan, a near 40-inch vertical and the ability to shoot from beyond the arch equals a future star. A simple formula for finding viable prospects but like baseball there is a “sabermetrics” side of this.
Mitchell saw a dip in his field goal percentage, percentage from three-point range, points per game and even his rebounding production took a hit during his sophomore season.
Not to mention, while watching his games he did not appear to be mentally involved especially during times of turmoil where the team was struggling to get going.
To me, this means that Mitchell will go the way the rest of his team goes, not exactly the way a player with his potential should respond when faced with adversity.
He showed that he’s not someone to put a team on his shoulders and as the team’s star was unable to help dig the team out of its hole.
Four years from now, I could be proven wrong and quite honestly wish I will be, but that is why Mitchell is a high risk-high reward player. His athleticism is beyond many of the players currently in the NBA but after a season where he and his team were shut down by the rest of the Sun Belt Conference I find it hard seeing success for Mitchell in the NBA.
This doesn’t mean SBC players don’t make a name for themselves in the professional world. Jeremy Evans and Courtney Lee are the most recent players to come out of the Sun Belt to impact the league.
Derrick Fisher is the biggest name to come out of the SBC, but since Fisher entered the NBA in 1996, nine players from that conference have made it to the pros with Raja Bell being the only other recognizable player in the league today.
Seeing Mitchell’s name next to those mentioned above would certainly be nice an achievement all on its own.
Mitchell will also be the first UNT basketball player to make it on a professional roster since Joe Hamilton who played in the ABA from 1970-1976 for several teams.
As far as the Mavericks and the possibility of taking Mitchell, I would prefer them not to. A forward is not what Dallas needs. Dallas needs someone who can hit the hardwood running and impact the team from the get go from the point. In addition, the only way Dallas could grab Mitchell is if they were to trade their 13th pick to a team looking to move up in the draft.
What Mark Cuban and the rest of the Mavericks front office plans to do on draft day is always unpredictable making my guess as good as anyone else’s.
Mitchell is a player with swingman athleticism, a post players size and the potential of Greg Oden before his plague of injuries.
He needs to fine tune his entire game outside of standing underneath the basket waiting for the ball and find a position where he can be the most effective.
Regardless, Mitchell is a very appealing prospect that could make even the most agile big men in the league look like Erick Dampier and if he falls as far as people predict then he will make a playoff caliber team very happy.
In the ESPN Experts Mock Draft, they have Mitchell going 28th overall to the San Antonio Spurs, a team that will suit him nicely and allow this young baller to mature under the watchful wings of one of the greatest big men of all time Tim Duncan.
Although Tony Mitchell is not a marquee player in this draft, he is certainly a name to remember regardless of his future becoming a success story or not.