By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
It’s hard to improve on a season where you were named to the All-Big 12 third team, the All-Big 12 defensive first team and was an integral part of one of the best teams in the nation. But that’s exactly what junior guard Davion Mitchell has done this year.
Mitchell has improved on nearly every statistic from a year ago. His points per game, assists per game and field goal percentage have all gone up significantly. Mitchell, who was a role player on offense in last year’s team, has transformed into a bona fide offensive star for Baylor this season.
Mitchell’s stout defense, which he became nationally known for last season, hasn’t declined either. In fact, it might have improved as well. Mitchell averages 2.1 steals per game this season after averaging 1.5 steals per game last season.
But the most notable change in Mitchell’s game has come from behind the arc. Mitchell shot an average 32 percent from three last season. However, this season Mitchell has come out red hot, shooting an incredible 49 percent from three.
Mitchell attributed his success to his work with Baylor graduate assistants Rem Bakamus and Matt Gray over the summer. He said the focus of those workouts was repetition, consistently having correct footwork and form. Mitchell said he still goes back to those workouts when he feels like he’s not in rhythm from three.
“All those things I worked on during the summer, just going back to them,” Mitchell said. “Working on my form, working on my footwork.”
But Mitchell’s teammates don’t see his newfound shooting success as a result of a change in form or repetition. They see it as a result of an improved mindset.
“His growth was really all mental, in my point of view,” senior guard MaCio Teague said. “Every time he works out, he makes a lot of shots. He goes 80 for 100 every time in the workout. I would just say that he’s grown as a player in his mind. His mind is really strong, he believes in himself and the guys on the team really believe in him, and I think that really helps him out a lot too.”
Junior guard Jared Butler agreed with Teague, citing Mitchell’s confidence in his own shot as the main reason for his growth as a shooter.
“I think his confidence in his shot is just going through the roof. It’s hard to be a confident shooter all the time,” Butler said. “It looks different out there to me. When he shoots the hesi-pull, I’m like, ‘That’s cash.’ He’s shooting it from deep, and that adds an element to his game that makes him tremendously hard to guard.”
Mitchell’s play has been remarkably consistent all year, but his breakout game came against Kansas State on Jan. 27 where he put up a career-high 31 points while making a career-high 7 threes.
The Baylor guard trio of Mitchell, Butler and Teague pride themselves on getting the ball to the player with the hot hand, which has often been Mitchell this season. When Mitchell has gotten hot, his teammates have only encouraged him to keep shooting. The Kansas State game serves as a perfect example of this mentality.
“The second half, I think it was Rem [Bakamus] and Jared [Butler], were like ‘man, you’ve only missed one three. It’s time for a heat check,’” Mitchell said, “I was like alright; I’m going to shoot the next one. And then they kept telling me to shoot the ball, and it kept going in.”
It’s easy to see why Mitchell’s teammates want to feed him the ball when he gets hot. Mitchell describes entering “the zone” like everything becoming easier for him.
“It feels like every shot you put up is going in, like the goal is bigger,” Mitchell said. “It feels great.”
Mitchell’s future looks bright. His improvement hasn’t gone unnoticed by NBA Scouts, as Mitchell has shot up NBA draft boards and mock drafts. But Mitchell remains laser-focused on this season and the next game.
“The job’s not finished, so we’re going to keep playing hard,” Mitchell said.