Tony Mitchell sat down and considered his options a few weeks ago and decided he was ready to make the jump to the NBA.
The former North Texas standout will get his chance to show that is the case beginning today in the NBA Draft Combine.
A total of 61 top prospects for the upcoming draft were invited to the event that will run through Sunday in Chicago. A few players will sit out due to injury, but more than 40 are expected to participate.
“I want to focus on the task at hand and be the best player I can be,” Mitchell said at a news conference on March 20 when he announced he was declaring for the draft. “I want to focus and take that next step.”
Mitchell left UNT after that news conference and has been preparing for the draft since.
Mitchell’s audition at the combine will include everything from position drills to skill tests, like the vertical jump and bench press, to playing in game-type situations against other top prospects.
Mitchell, a 6-foot-9 power forward, averaged 13.0 points and 8.5 rebounds as a sophomore last season and finished with a school-record 157 blocked shots in his career at UNT, despite the fact he played in just 55 games.
Mitchell became academically eligible at the semester break of his freshman season and helped lead UNT to the Sun Belt Conference tournament final. Mitchell was named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and briefly considered declaring for the draft.
Mitchell decided to return to UNT for his sophomore season after head coach Johnny Jones left for LSU. He played last season under Tony Benford, an experience he said helped him mature.
“Those guys changed our lives,” Mitchell said of Benford and his coaching staff. “They held us accountable and made us work every day.”
Benford and his assistants worked with Mitchell on improving his offensive skill set as well as helping him grow as a person.
Several projections have Mitchell slated to be selected in the first round. NBAdraft.net projects Mitchell to be selected by the New York Knicks with the 24th pick, while CBSSports has Mitchell slated to go to the Phoenix Suns with the 30th pick.
Mitchell is expected be the first UNT player selected since the Mavericks picked John Horrocks with the 84th overall pick in the fourth round in 1984. Mitchell will also likely be the highest selection from UNT since Kenneth Lyons was taken in the second round with 47th overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983.
“I think he is prepared for the next step,” Benford said. “When he gets into workouts, he will demonstrate that he will be worthy of a lottery pick [top 14].”