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Baylor Basketball

Davion Mitchell: Winner, Relentless, Competitor, Unselfish

October 21, 2020
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Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.” 

The college basketball equivalent is everyone has a plan until #45 picks you up at half court.  I asked the Baylor basketball coaching staff to give me one word to describe Davion “Off Night” Mitchell. 

Explosive.  Un-Selfish.  Competitive.  Dynamic.  Fearless.  Committed.  Relentless.  Incomparable.  Unconquerable.  Winner.  Fast.  Tenacious.  Dominant.  Determined.  Diligent.  Faithful.  Friend.  Kind. 

There is no loss of words when the topic is Davion Mitchell.  His value to Baylor is hard to calculate with just statistics and analytics.  

He has a very specific plan and doesn’t waver.
- Baylor men’s basketball coach

One of his Baylor coaches didn’t stop at one word. 

“He won’t stop.  Won’t stop watching film.  Won’t stop doing extra work.  His work ethic is remarkable.  He has a very specific plan and he doesn’t waver.  And that will show up on offense this year as much as it showed up on defense last year.  He loves Baylor and he cares about the program’s growth and culture.  His friendships with players on the team, with graduate assistants and everyone on our staff makes everyone happy.  And being happy goes a long way.”  

Keith Winston, one of Mitchell’s AAU coaches for the Georgia Stars, made similar comments.

“His respect for others, his character, his upbringing; he’s about all the right things.  He’s a workaholic- he takes so much pride in getting better.  But most of all he cares about everyone on the team getting better.  His leadership by example and attitude make him exceptional.”  

He always asked me, who is the team we are facing’s best player?  I got him
- Keith Winston Georgia Stars AAU 

He earned the nickname “Off Night” because opposing players tend to have off nights against him.  KenPom offensive ratings of 58, 86, 77, 71, 88, 82, 66, 70 are only a few for the top point guards in the country when they faced Mitchell.  Anything less than 100 is an “off night”.  Many of those point guards will have their names called early next month in the 2020 NBA Draft.  To Davion Mitchell, the reputation does not matter. 

“He always asked me, who is the team we are facing’s best player?  I got him,” says Keith Winston.  

“I had to force him out of the gym,” said his high school coach Julian Stokes at Liberty County in Hinesville, Georgia where Mitchell led his team to a state championship in 2016.  “He was never satisfied with his game, a constant passion to get better.  He’s a pass first, defensive minded point guard but make no mistake he will score in bunches if that’s what his team needs.”  

It is hard for a returning All-Big 12 performer who was also first team defense last season to go under the radar nationally, but Davion Mitchell has managed to do it. 

Andy Katz released his top 15 college basketball point guards which included Baylor’s Jared Butler at #2.  Butler is a tremendous player and rightfully being considered for national player of the year awards.  The returning junior averaged 16 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists and is likely going to be the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year after pulling his name out of the NBA draft.  MaCio Teague (14 ppg; 5 reb; 2 asst) also flirted with turning pro after a strong junior season and is garnering pre-season admiration.   

Katz ranked Teague #7 nationally among shooting guards.  Adam Flagler (16 ppg; 4 reb at Presbyterian as a freshman) is unknown nationally but getting plenty of love among Baylor insiders as a guard that is every bit as good as the thre returning All-Big 12 performers. Freshman LJ Cryer comes to Baylor after averaging over 34 ppg as a high school senior at Morton Creek Ranch in Houston in one of the more competitive districts in the country (19-6A).  Baylor’s five guards are the best in college basketball as a unit.  

But make no mistake, Mitchell is as good of an all around guard as there is in college basketball and his opportunity to show that this season will be plentiful.  The Bears have arguably the toughest schedule in college basketball and play in the premier basketball conference nationally. 

Right now, the Bears are slated to play 12 top 25 preseason teams in their 27 games leading up to the Big 12 tournament.  Those games include Arizona State and potentially Villanova, Illinois and Gonzaga in non conference.  In addition, there will also be games against Kansas, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia in Big 12 play.  Contests at Seton Hall, Auburn, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are also challenging match-ups for the Bears. 

On Katz’ top play makers in college basketball, “Off Night” Mitchell will get to face five of the top seven not including Butler who he battles against in practice daily.  Those potential match-ups versus Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois), Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State), Remy Martin (Arizona State), Marcus Garrett (Kansas) and Collin Gillespie (Villanova) will show the college basketball world (and NBA scouts) what he’s made of.    

Senior Mark Vital was also a unanimous All-Big 12 Defensive selection for the Bears last season and was one of the finalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, an award that Marcus Garrett from Kansas won.  Vital will be at the top of the list of the all glue guys team this year and is considered one of the top defenders in the game with his ability to guard 1-5.  Freddie Gillespie from Baylor was also an All-Big 12 Defender last season as a senior.  King McClure was a senior defensive minded guard on that 2018-19 team.   

All three of those guys were on the 2018-19 Baylor team that finished 75 in KenPom defensive efficiency.  Vital and Gillespie improved the next season, but the catalyst for Baylor going from #75 in defensive efficiency to #4 in 2019-20 was Mitchell.   MaCio Teague deserves credit as well for his defense, but Mitchell is the straw that stirs the drink.  

Some other interesting match-ups to keep your eyes on.  The Texas Longhorns are loaded with a talented and experienced backcourt (Matt Coleman, Courtney Ramey, Andrew Jones all top 50 recruits who are now upper classmen).  Off night helped hold the Horns to a total of 89 points in two meetings last season.  Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga), Nimari Burnett (Texas Tech) and Sharife Cooper (Auburn) are 5 star point guards who will get an opportunity to see how they stack up against an NBA level defender in Mitchell. 

Auburn was Davion Mitchell’s first stop before transferring to Baylor.  There is always a backstory when a player transfers and an opportunity to show the original team what they are missing out on.  Then of course there is Tyler Harris for Iowa State, a diminutive guard (5-8) with elite quickness.  He’s an immediately eligible transfer from Memphis.  

Tyler Harris was heavily recruited by Baylor and seemed to be a good fit for the Bears who have had a lot of success in the past with point guards under 6 feet- Tweety Carter, Pierre Jackson, Kenny Chery, Lester Medford and Manu Lecomte were all successful in Scott Drew’s system.  Baylor fans anxiously awaited his committment ceremony on April 13, 2018 where he was deciding between Memphis and Baylor. 

Memphis already had a commitment from a PG in that class (Alex Lomax) who was let out of his commitment to Wichita State when Penny Hardaway took the job due to his long-term relationship with Penny.  It seemed unlikely that Penny would take two smaller point guards in the same class.  

Sicem365 subscribers tuned into the livestream commitment ceremony with eager anticipation that Scott Drew had landed the next Pierre Jackson, an all Big12 performer who led the conference in scoring (20 ppg) and assists (7 per game) as a senior.  But when Bear fans saw the Baylor hat that Tyler Harris put on the table, they knew Memphis was the choice.  No one puts that hideous hat on their head for commitment photos.  

The irony in that story is that if Baylor gets a commitment from Harris, Davion Mitchell probably never comes to Baylor.  Tyler Harris may turn out to be an incredible player for Steve Prohm and Iowa State but I don’t think there is a rational Baylor supporter or college basketball fan that would trade him for Davion “Off Night” Mitchell, who at 6-2 205 lbs has elite speed and quickness, strength, a 40 plus inch vertical and a relentless motor.  

Even though Mitchell is overlooked and under-appreciated by the national media, he is beloved by Baylor diehards and especially his teammates and coaches.  The stats and analytics say he is really good but the eye test says he’s even better.  His value to Baylor’s program is hard to quantify.  As one Baylor coach put it, “without him, our defense would change in ways that we would not be comfortable with”.  If he has the kind of year that I think he’s capable of having, I would encourage Baylor fans to enjoy him this season. 

But whether it is one or two more years, Mitchell’s impact on Baylor’s basketball program will never be forgotten.  And he’s not just invested for the now.  As Scott Drew was landing 3 of the top recruits in the 2021 class (Kendall Brown, Langston Love and Jeremy Sochan), a question that our Sicem365 reporting team always asked was:  what Baylor players on the current team have you formed a relationship with?  The answer was always Davion Mitchell.  “Davion was the first to reach out to me and welcome me to the Baylor family.”  

In a season where Baylor hopes to win a Big12 and national championship, there will be plenty of heroes and praise to go around if they accomplish those goals.  Butler.  Teague.  Vital.  Flagler.  Clark.  Mayer.  Tchatchoua.  Thamba.  These are the guys that have been in college for 3 plus years this season.  But don’t forget about Davion Mitchell.  If Baylor accomplishes their aspirations, Mitchell will be setting the tone offensively and defensively.  Everyone has a plan until Davion Mitchell refuses to practice social distancing against you.  

 
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