Tony Mitchell waited months for the pass that came his way late in the first half of North Texas' game against Jackson State on Sunday night. Tony Mitchell
The former Dallas Pinkston standout sat out an entire year after his plans to play for Missouri came to an end, setting him on a path to UNT.
Mitchell told his former Pinkston coach Nick Smith that he had something special in store for the occasion.
That pass provided him the perfect opportunity, and Mitchell didn't disappoint, gathering in the feed from Chris Jones, jumping from halfway down the lane and throwing down a thunderous dunk to punctuate his UNT debut and a 69-55 win over Jackson State at the Super Pit.
"All the frustration was gone after that," Mitchell said of the dunk. "It was a great feeling. I was trying to break the rim."
What Mitchell accomplished might have been even more satisfying.
The 6-8 forward was a consensus top 20 prospect in the Class of 2010, but failed to qualify academically out of high school. He enrolled at UNT (5-5) early this year and couldn't practice or play with his new teammates. He sat out and focused on his academic progress while earning the 24 credit hours he needed to become eligible.
Mitchell reached that goal on Friday, after receiving his first-semester grades.
He practiced just once before UNT's game against JSU, but immediately showed why he is regarded as one of the best recruits to ever come to UNT. He scored on a reverse layup, ran the floor well and controlled the paint while finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Officials from four NBA teams - the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Utah Jazz and New Jersey Nets - were all at the game to scout Mitchell.
"Tony came in and did an excellent job of playing within himself and didn't try to do too much," UNT head coach Johnny Jones said. "He definitely made a huge impact on the game."
Mitchell had been planning to do just that ever since he arrived at the school. He sent a text message to Smith in the days leading up to the game, saying that he would post a signature dunk at some point.
"I was going to put on a show regardless and dunk every chance I got," Mitchell said. "That's what I did."
Smith and several members of Mitchell's family were at the game.
"We are all proud of him," Smith said. "I don't even have words right now. I'm just happy he's here and on the court playing."
Mitchell came in for the first time after JSU (2-10) took a timeout at the 13:19 mark of the first half and grabbed his first rebound less than a minute later. He scored his first points on a dunk at the 8:44 mark.
Chris Jones scored 14 points in the first half for UNT, which blew the game open with an 11-1 run that gave the Mean Green a 33-17 lead.
Mitchell posted his signature dunk a short time later and spent the rest of the night continuing to settle in with his new teammates. He started the second half and ended up playing 20 minutes.
"Tony is another big piece of the puzzle," Chris Jones said. "He can shoot the ball and dunk. He gives us an offensive presence in the post. When Tony touches the ball, it attracts all five guys. It opens things up."
Jones took advantage of the extra opportunities, hit five of his six shots from behind the 3-point arc and led four UNT players who finished in double figures with 17 points. Roger Franklin added 13 points and Jordan Williams 10.
JSU, which came into the night off a big win over SMU, couldn't keep pace despite a big performance from Jenirro Bush, who scored a game-high 20 points.
With Mitchell, UNT now has eight players in its rotation who are new to the program this season and is waiting on an appeal to the NCAA for immediate eligibility for Grambling transfer Justin Patton. If that appeal is granted, UNT will have nine players who were not with the team last year.
UNT always knew it would be an adjustment process this season with those new players, even with the impressive talent they possess.
That is true even of Mitchell.
Johnny Jones said UNT still has a long way to go. The fact the initial step in that adjustment process went so well with Mitchell was a positive sign.
"It's going to take several practices and games, probably into the new year, for him to really get going and feel comfortable out there," Jones said. "He will find himself going too quick at times, which is normal, but he did a good job of making some plays and slowing down tonight."
BRETT VITO can be reached at 9405-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
North Texas 69, Jackson State 55
JACKSON STATE (2-10) - Coleman 0-2 0-0 0, Jones 5-9 0-0 10, Bush 8-13 3-6 20, Howard 5-14 0-0 10, Lewis 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor 0-0 0-0 0, Stewart 3-8 0-0 7, Williams 2-6 0-0 4, Readus 1-1 1-3 3, Armstrong 0-0 0-0 0, Gregory 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 24-53 5-11 55.
NORTH TEXAS (5-5) - Holmen 0-2 0-0 0, Hogans 0-0 0-0 0, Stojiljkovic 1-2 0-0 2, A. Williams 3-5 1-2 8, Jones 6-9 0-0 17, Walton 1-6 1-3 3, Mitchell 6-11 2-5 14, Norris 0-0 0-0 0, J. Williams 2-8 5-7 10, Franklin 5-8 3-6 13, Hall 0-1 0-0 0, Edwards 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-53 12-23 69.
Halftime - UNT 36-24. 3-point goals - JSU 2-9 (Bush 1-2, Howard 0-3, Stewart 1-2, Williams 0-2), UNT 7-16 (A. Williams 1-1, Jones 5-6, Walton 0-2, Mitchell 0-1, J. Williams 1-5, Hall 0-1). Fouled out - none. Rebounds - JSU 28 (Jones, Bush, Howard 3), UNT 38 (Mitchell 10). Assists - JSU 7 (Lewis, Stewart 2), UNT 14 (Jones 4). Total fouls - JSU 17, UNT 14. A -3,146.