Men’s basketball: Decision time

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University of North Texas sophomore forward Tony Mitchell (13) brings the ball up the court against Arkansas State, Thursday, February 28, 2013, at the Super Pit in Denton, TX.
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Mitchell set to announce plan for 2013-14

North Texas plans to hold a press conference in the next few days, when Tony Mitchell will announce whether he will return to school for his junior season or declare for the NBA draft.

UNT coach Tony Benford said that the school is in the process of setting up a time and date.

Mitchell has several options. The 6-foot-8-inch forward could declare for the draft and announce that he will not return to UNT; declare for the draft while leaving open the possibility that he will remove his name from the draft after being evaluated by NBA officials; or announce that he will return for another year with the Mean Green without entering the draft.

Mitchell maintained throughout his sophomore year that he would consider his options at the conclusion of the season.

“Coach, my family and I will sit down and talk about it,” Mitchell said following a season-ending loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

Multiple sources close to Mitchell said that those discussions have been taking place since late this week. The early entry deadline for the draft is April 28; the withdrawal deadline is June 17.

Mitchell has averaged 13.7 points and 9.3 rebounds while playing in 55 games over two seasons at UNT.

Most draft projections have Mitchell slated to be selected in the first round, despite a tough sophomore season for the former Dallas Pinkston standout. Mitchell was named to multiple preseason All-America teams last summer, but in the end he only made the All-Sun Belt second team.

Mitchell saw his scoring and rebounding numbers drop from his freshman year while playing under Benford, who led UNT to a 12-20 record in his first season as UNT’s head coach.

Mitchell averaged 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds as a freshman, when he played in just 23 games under former coach Johnny Jones after becoming eligible at the semester break. Mitchell failed to meet NCAA eligibility requirements after signing with Missouri and enrolled at UNT on Jan. 26, 2011.

Mitchell spent nearly a year at UNT taking classes before becoming eligible at the start of the spring 2012 semester. Despite not being able to practice until he became eligible and missing the first nine games of the season, Mitchell was named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year in addition to being a first-team all-league pick.

Mitchell briefly considered declaring for the NBA draft before electing to return to UNT. Jones left to take over at LSU after Mitchell decided to return to Denton.

Mitchell participated in the Amare Stoudemire and LeBron James skills academies for top NBA prospects after his freshman season and was expected to improve dramatically as a sophomore.

Mitchell was brilliant at times and disappeared at others.

He scored 29 points and grabbed 15 rebounds against Troy but went scoreless while taking just three shots in a loss to Florida International.

UNT struggled along with Mitchell and finished fourth in the five-team Sun Belt West Division after being a unanimous pick to win the division in the league’s preseason coaches poll.

UNT had hoped to turn its season around in the Sun Belt tournament but was blown out 77-55 in the first round by ULL.

Mitchell took just seven shots in that game and finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

He averaged 13.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore while playing for a team that lost three key players to season-ending injuries: forward Justin Patton and top 3-point threats Brandan Walton and Jacob Holmen.

While Mitchell has played only 55 games for UNT, he has left his mark on the program.

Mitchell has blocked 157 shots in his career, shattering the school record of 119 set by Jeffrey Simpson from 2004-06. He also has the top two single-season totals for blocks at 70 and 87, his total this year.

Mitchell will announce in the next few days whether he will return to build on those totals and leave UNT for the NBA after two seasons.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is bvito@dentonrc.com .


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