Men’s basketball: As expected -- Source says Mitchell will declare for NBA draft

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David Minton/DRC
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.

Tony Mitchell is leaving North Texas and will declare for the 2013 NBA Draft, a source close to the situation told the Denton Record-Chronicle on Monday.

UNT will conduct a news conference at 5 p.m. Wednesday to officially announce Mitchell’s decision that will bring his brief career with the Mean Green to a close.

Mitchell averaged 13.7 points and 9.3 rebounds while playing in 55 games over two seasons at UNT. He maintained throughout the last few months that he would consider his options at the end of the Mean Green’s campaign.

“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 last week.

Most draft projections have Mitchell slated to be selected in the first round, despite a tough sophomore season for the former Dallas Pinkston standout. The 6-foot-8 forward was named to multiple preseason All-American teams this summer, but was only named to the All-Sun Belt Conference second team.

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

Mitchell averaged 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds as a freshman. He didn’t become eligible in his first season at UNT until the second semester and played in only 23 games under former head coach Johnny Jones.

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

Mitchell averaged 13.0 points and 8.5 rebounds a game as a sophomore while playing for an injury-riddled team in which three key players were lost to season-ending injuries.

Playing for UNT was a backup plan from the start for Mitchell, a former five-star recruit.

Mitchell committed to Missouri out of Pinkston, where he developed into one of the top high school players in the country.

Slam Magazinenamed Mitchell to its high school All-America team, while Rivals.com rated him No. 12 on its list of the top recruits nationally in the class of 2010.

Mitchell did not meet NCAA academic requirements to play as a freshman in college and enrolled on Jan. 26, 2011, at UNT, a school close to home where he could pay his expenses until becoming eligible to receive a scholarship.

Mitchell earned enough credit hours to become eligible for the second semester of his freshman year and began what was an up-and-down career with the Mean Green.

Mitchell blocked 157 shots in his career — shattering the school record of 119 — and posted spectacular dunk after spectacular dunk at the Super Pit.

Mitchell flashed his ability at times his freshman year, while struggling in others. He scored 34 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in a win over South Alabama in just his seventh college game and posted 30 points and 17 rebounds in a win over Denver.

He struggled with the defensive attention he received at other points in the year. He finished with fewer than 10 points in six games.

Despite a few off nights, Mitchell’s average of 14.7 points a game led UNT. He was also the first freshman to post multiple games with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds since Kansas State’s Michael Beasley in the 2007-08 season. Only Kentucky’s Anthony Davis averaged more rebounds a game among freshmen, edging Mitchell 10.4 to 10.3.

Mitchell participated in the Amare Stoudemire and LeBron James Skills Academies for top NBA prospects after his freshman season and was expected to take a step forward as a sophomore under Benford.

UNT struggled despite the presence of Mitchell, who was brilliant at times and disappeared at others.

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

UNT had hoped to turn its season around in the Sun Belt Conference tournament but was blown out in the first round by ULL 74-55.

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

The loss of Mitchell will be another blow for UNT, which has struggled in the early stages of the Benford era. UNT was a unanimous pick this past season to win the Sun Belt West Division but finished fourth among five teams.

UNT lost four seniors to graduation in addition to Mitchell, including Roger Franklin. The former Duncanville standout averaged 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds a game.

Niko Stojiljkovic, Jacob Holmen and Justin Patton were also seniors. Stojiljkovic started eight games. Holmen started seven games and Patton two before both were forced to end their careers due to injury.

UNT’s players and coaches knew that this would likely be Mitchell’s final college season and had hoped to send him out on a high note.

That dream ended in a disappointing season, one that served as a precursor to the end of Mitchell’s career that will officially come Wednesday.

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

 


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