Nothing boosts a player’s stock when it comes to garnering college interest quite like being surrounded by elite talent.
That is the situation Wayne junior Justin Mitchell finds himself in as he plays with the 17U Spiece Indy Heat AAU team.
Over the weekend at the Bill Hensley Memorial Run-n-Slam Basketball Classic in Fort Wayne, Mitchell routinely was on the floor with four top 50 teammates around him. The exposure so far this AAU season has paid dividends, with a wealth of potential suitors contacting the 6-foot-1 point guard over the last several weeks.
“It went from not very much (interest) at all to everybody calling me now about him,” Wayne coach Aaron Rehrer said. “It is great for him. He is a great kid and a great student and he deserves it.”
It doesn’t hurt when you have some of the best players in the Class of 2014 wearing the same jersey as you. At times over the weekend, Mitchell was on the floor with Trey Lyles (No. 4 player according to Rivals), JaQuan Lyle (No. 17), Trevon Bluiett (No. 46) and James Blackmon Jr. (No. 47).
“I feel elite,” said Mitchell when asked to explain how it feels to play with such talent. “I have never played with guys like this before. It is great to go out and get in the mix with them.”
While Mitchell may be surpassed offensively by some of his teammates, his defensive prowess is what earned him a shot on the team initially and what has given him substantial playing time. The hustle and grit that he displayed while averaging 20.6 points and 8.2 rebounds for Wayne this past season is what has turned heads on his AAU team as well as recruiters.
Some players would not take well to seeing their offensive production go down and not being the top scoring option, but Mitchell has taken to it well. It also provides him with a unique position that he does not find himself in much at the high school level.
“I have to stay in the game because I am used to playing with the ball,” Defense is my strongest attribute so that is something I want to do every time I am out there.”
Mitchell’s goal this spring and summer is to improve his shooting from the outside. He is shooting about 1,000 jump shots a day in an effort to become an even better all-around player, thus further upping his college potential.
“Everybody asks, ‘Can he shoot?’” Rehrer said. “He can, but he doesn’t shoot very many jumpers in high school because he doesn’t have to. But we are working on continuing to improve with jump shots and also getting stronger.”
College interest has come from in-state teams such as Butler, Ball State, Indiana State and IPFW as well as MAC schools Toledo and Ohio University. Xavier has also begun to show interest.
However, no school has yet to offer a scholarship.
But the better he performs this summer with some of the top-rated players in the country around him, the more calls Mitchell and Rehrer will surely get.
“A lot of the people that are interested in him are so impressed with how hard he plays,” Rehrer said. “He is a great role player for (Spiece Indy Heat) and is really showcasing his skills well.”