Tony Mitchell was expected to go in the top half of the first round of the NBA draft, if not the lottery, not too long ago. He had a great freshman season at UNT.
Even after a tough sophomore season playing for a new head coach in Tony Benford and an injury-riddled team, he was expected to be picked in the first round last night.
Mitchell didn’t reach either goal when all was said and done. The former UNT standout was still drafted higher than any player in program history, but he fell to the 37th overall pick, where the Detroit Pistons snapped him up.
Mitchell’s production dropped after his freshman year from 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds a game to 13.2 points and 8.5 rebounds a game his sophomore year, when he admitted he struggled to find the motivation to play at his best for a team that stumbled to a 12-20 finish.
“We wanted to hear his side, why there was such a dropoff,” Pistons assistant general manager George David told the Detroit News. “He was close to being a late-lottery, mid-first round pick. From a talent standpoint, he could be the best athlete in the entire draft. He had a lot of ‘Wow’ moments in North Texas.”
Mitchell talked about how it was hard to get up for games last season.
After it was over, Mitchell felt like it was his time to leave UNT and declared for the draft. He stuck by those comments Thursday.
“I decided to come [to the draft] because of my family,” Mitchell told the Detroit Free Press. “My family wanted to get away from home just to get the draft experience and be able to walk on stage.”
I thought that Mitchell would go in the first round on talent alone and was wrong.
Now Mitchell is in a much more dangerous spot as a second-round pick. First-round picks have guaranteed three-year contracts. Second-round picks are guaranteed nothing.
Mitchell will have to work for it. You just hope for his sake that the light comes on and he finds the motivation to work hard and take advantage of his opportunity.
What I do stand by is the opinion that Mitchell made a big impact at UNT. He was one of those once-in-a-lifetime players. UNT might never land a guy like Mitchell again. He put UNT in the spotlight.
Mitchell might not have displayed the motor other players UNT had in the past, but he had talent, which trumps everything in college sports. Give me a bunch of guys with top-end talent over a bunch of lesser talent, try-hard guys any day.
Mitchell was also a good guy.
It’s just too bad for the program that UNT didn’t get all it could have out of Mitchell.
That is something UNT will likely look back on and lament, especially if Mitchell capitalizes on all that potential in the NBA.
And don’t be fooled. That is a distinct possibility.
Check back tomorrow. I will have a video of Rob Evans and one of Mitchell’s good friends Matt Walsh, a UNT manager, talking about the draft and UNT’s highest selection in program history.