The honors keep rolling in for Tony Mitchell, not to mention opportunities to develop his immense talent.
The North Texas sophomore participated in the Amare Stoudemire Skills Academy for post players two weeks ago and performed well enough to receive an invitation to the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas.
Only the top 20 players in college basketball and 80 of the best high school players in the country are invited to the camp that will begin Friday.
“I’m excited to go to a prestigious camp like that,” Mitchell said. “I will get to play against better competition and improve my skill set. You learn more going to those camps and get to meet new people. You get to ask LeBron what that life is about and what it takes to get there.”
Mitchell played for the U.S. in the FIBA under-19 world championships last summer and was a member of the team that won the FIBA Americas under-18 championship in 2010.
Playing on the national stage is nothing new for Mitchell, but the experience is one that UNT head coach Tony Benford expects will continue to pay dividends.
“It’s great exposure,” Benford said. “He will work with some quality coaches, and LeBron will get out there and play with the guys. I have been there the last six years and it is great experience for those guys. It’s good for them to go against the best players in the country.”
Kansas center Jeff Withey also has been invited to the camp, which will announce its full roster Friday.
Kentucky forwards Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who were selected first and second, respectively, in this year’s NBA draft, both participated in the James camp last summer.
Mitchell has known some of the top players in college basketball through playing on the summer circuit for elite players and AAU teams.
“It will be fun to catch up with them, see how their games have improved and test the waters a little bit,” Mitchell said. “I will see where I’m at.”
Mitchell was not eligible to practice or play at UNT until after the first semester of the 2011-12 season, but quickly established himself as one of the best players in college basketball. He averaged 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds a game while earning Freshman of the Year honors in the Sun Belt Conference.
Mitchell says he believes he has improved over the summer through his experiences at the Stoudemire camp, not to mention working with Benford and his staff.
Mitchell said the coaches at the Stoudemire camp helped him with his jump shot and that his ball-handling has improved. Benford has emphasized cutting down on turnovers while working with Mitchell, who averaged 2.8 turnovers a game last season.
“My patience on offense is where I have improved the most,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes I play too fast. I learned at the Stoudemire camp not to force things. If you are patient, it will come.”
That’s just what happened when it came to Mitchell’s invitation to the James camp. He waited and eventually got a call from his mother, who received word that he had been asked to participate in one more camp this summer.
“It will help a lot,” Mitchell said. “I will get exposure to NBA scouts and will get to work on my skills with the coaches there.
“It’s a blessing to even be invited.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.