Chris Haynes 1 on 1 with Tony Mitchell
TUALATIN – On Thursday the Portland Trail Blazers opened their first pre-draft workout at their practice facility in preparation for the 2013 NBA Draft with no big names.
Shooting guard Dexter Strickland (North Carolina), small forward Adonis Thomas (Memphis), shooting guard BJ Young (Arkansas), small forward James Ennis (Long Beach State), power forward Richard Howell (North Carolina State), and power forward Tony Mitchell (North Texas) were the prospects in attendance.
Mitchell is the only player projected to go in the first round.
In two seasons, Mitchell averaged 13.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.8 blocks in 31 minutes per game. After his freshman season, he was awarded Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Sun Belt. The 6-8 power forward is also the school's all-time career blocks leader.
Quite a resume, if strictly referring to the accolades.
North Texas underperformed last season, finishing 12-19 and 7-13 in conference play. Mitchell underperformed, as well, admitting he didn't get up for a lot of games during his sophomore year due to the team underachieving.
It showed in his stats. His scoring was down from his freshman year, his field goal percentage dropped 13 percent and he brought down two less rebounds despite playing more minutes a game.
“Last season I didn't play too well,” Mitchell explained to CSNNW.com. “I was up and down. I didn't give max effort each and every game like I should have. I”m just trying to show these guys that I can play each and every day hard and strong, giving max effort.”
You have to commend the kid for his honesty.
At the combine in Chicago, he says the common question he was asked from NBA executives was, “How would you describe your effort level?” He compares his game to Denver's promising player Kenneth Faried.
Whether he knows it or not, he's essentially stating that he will leave it out on the floor night-after-night and that's what he's trying to show during these NBA workouts.
“Just competing,” he said. “Going hard each play. Whatever drill we're doing, I'm going hard. Just tearing my body each and every time, running hard, jumping hard, doing everything to the max.”
There is some debate to if someone can develop a motor. Some say you have to be born with it, others believe it can or cannot be taught. Mitchell says it's all about your desire to want to accomplish the goal at hand. And being that his goal of playing in the NBA isn't that far away, he's laying it all out to prove he's a changed player.
“A motor is basically your will,” Mitchell said. “Your will to win. It's inside you. You can't teach somebody how to play hard. That's just what I have to do...Doing everything I need to do to help my family. It's a blessing in disguise and I'm just trying to help them out by doing my dream, doing what I love.”
The Trail Blazers hold the No. 10 pick along with picks 39, 40 and 45. Mitchell is slotted to be taken mid-to-late first round. If Portland holds steady with their picks, I don't see a scenario where Mitchell will be within Portland's reach.
Regardless, Mitchell offers his assessment of the Trail Blazers.
“It's a young and up-and-coming team,” he said. “Damian Lillard playing well, you got my boy LaMarcus [Aldridge] from Dallas. It's a great team and it's up-and-coming.”
Howell, 22, a four-year college player, was voted onto the ACC First Team by media members and conference coaches voted him onto the All-ACC Second Team. His senior year was his best statistical season posting numbers of 12.7 points and 10.9 rebounds.
Ennis, 22, is the reigning Big West Conference player of the year after averaging 16.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks a game during his senior campaign. He's projected to be a late second round selection.
Strickland, 22, also a four-year college athlete, is coming off of a career highs in points -- 7.8 points and assists -- 4.2 in 27.7 minutes an outing while leading the nation in assists-to-turnover ratio at 3.19.
Young, 20, is projected as a late second round pick. He averaged 15.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists during his two-year tenure in college. Those gaudy numbers awarded him All-Southerneastern Conference Second Team, voted on by the coaches and All-Southerneastern Honorable Mention voted by the Associated Press.
Thomas, 20, freshly removed from an Conference USA All-Third Team season. For his college career, he posted numbers of 10.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He played one season will Trail Blazers guard Will Barton at Memphis.