Tony Mitchell already had one snapshot of himself and LeBron James from the last time he attended the Miami Heat forward’s summer skills academy a few years ago while in high school.
The North Texas sophomore picked up another shot last week, after his initial appearance at the LeBron James Skill Academy as a college player.
All indications are his performance the second time around ensured he gained a lot more than a memento, including momentum heading into his sophomore season and the 2013 NBA Draft.
Mitchell was universally praised for his performance at the event that concluded Monday in Las Vegas, where the 6-8 forward came away with the feeling that he accomplished what he had hoped to all along.
“It went well,” Mitchell said Tuesday after returning to UNT. “Everyone was playing hard and competing. I played against top competition, and I think I played alright. I thought I did well working with the coaches.”
Mitchell earned his invitation to James’ camp through his performance in the Amare Stoudemire Skill Academy earlier this summer that featured the top 14 post players in college basketball.
There were corresponding camps for guards and forwards sponsored by Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
A total of 21 players were selected from those camps to attend James’ camp.
Mitchell spent part of the camp playing in a 5-on-5 setting with Phil Pressey of Missouri, CJ Fair of Syracuse, Rodney Hood of Duke, Mark Lyons of Arizona and Mike Moser of UNLV.
Mitchell’s performance in those games and in drills drew the praise of multiple analysts.
“UNT’s Tony Mitchell has helped his stock with NBA people here at LeBron James,” ESPN analyst Fran Franchilla and former head coach at Manhattan, St. John’s and New Mexico posted on his Twitter account. “His rebounding alone make him 1st rounder but will go higher.”
Joe Kotoch of ProBasketballDraft.com named Mitchell one of the standouts at the camp and listed him among the three best post players and three most explosive players at the camp.
“Fran said that it was good to watch me play,” Mitchell said. “He told me that I played well and told me what the scouts were looking for. I tried to do that to the best of my ability.
“I played above the rim and shot the ball pretty well. I showcased my skills a little bit.”
Those skills started to emerge in Mitchell’s freshman season at UNT. Mitchell became eligible at the semester break and went on to earn freshman of the year honors in the Sun Belt Conference after averaging 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds a game.
Mitchell believes he has improved even more this summer while working with new UNT head coach Tony Benford and his staff and attending the Stoudemire and James academies.
Mitchell is hoping the way he has improved will help him guide UNT back to the NCAA tournament. The Mean Green came up one game short last season, falling in the Sun Belt tournament final to Western Kentucky.
UNT has its top seven scorers returning, with Mitchell poised to lead the way after what he believes is a summer that helped him improve dramatically as a player.
“I got a lot better this summer, and I will get even better by getting into the weight room with [UNT strength coach Chris] Seroka,” Mitchell said. “Everyone has been able to get comfortable with the new staff. We are going to try to crack the top 25.
“It is about to get exciting. We have the total package right now.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .