Baylor athletes show their stripes in NBA

Former Baylor guard Davion Mitchell was selected as the No. 9 overall NBA draft pick by the Sacramento Kings. Photo courtesy of David Kaye

By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor

Baylor basketball fans had something to celebrate this summer as both Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler, members of the 2021 National Championship team, were drafted in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Mitchell attended the draft on July 29 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., with his family as well as Baylor men’s basketball head coach Scott Drew. He was first off for the Bears being selected with the No. 9 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings.

With the selection, Mitchell became the first Baylor player to be drafted in the top 10 since Ekpe Udoh in 2010 and just the third in program history.

“I’m excited to be here [in Sacramento],” Mitchell said in his introductory press conference. “It’s a blessing to get drafted here. I’m ready to have fun, and hopefully we can take this team to the playoffs.”

While the pick initially came as a surprise to many as the Kings were already loaded with guards like De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield on the roster, Mitchell said he is used to playing with multiple guards and is ready to get to work.

“At Baylor, I played with three guards. I kind of got used to it,” Mitchell said. “I decide to do whatever it takes to win, and if I got to play off the ball [or] play on the ball, I’ll do that, but I’m excited just to be here and play with [this] great group of guys.”

Although Butler was also projected to go in the first round, he had to wait a bit longer than his former teammate, as the New Orleans Pelicans selected him in the second round for the Utah Jazz with the No. 40 pick in the draft after making a trade earlier in the night with the Jazz involving their No. 30 pick.

“It was a rough night for me,” Butler said in his introductory press conference. “But when the Jazz called me, I was just extremely thankful. This is where I’m supposed to be, and I’m just honored for sure.”

The Utah Jazz organization also feels he belongs and is excited about adding Butler to the team, with the Jazz general manager Justin Zanik calling the pick a “no brainer.”

“I’m really excited for you guys in the community, in the city, in the state to get to know him [Jared] the way we believe in him, not only as a player, but as a person,” Zanik said. “He’s a special, special guy. … We obviously have people in the organization that have a lot of Baylor ties, and that gives us great comfort to kind of have maybe a better [or] just a really, really good feel about him as a player and as a person.”

After the draft finished, MaCio Teague and Mark Vital also got a chance to continue pursuing their dreams as Vital signed with the Portland Trail Blazers summer league team and Teague joined Butler in Utah after agreeing to an Exhibit 10 deal with the Jazz. This allows him to take part in their training camp while also playing on their summer league team and G-League affiliate.

“It was a great night for Baylor basketball,” Drew said. “All four now have a chance this summer to make their dreams a reality playing in the NBA. Really excited about all of their opportunities.”

Mitchell and Teague have both taken advantage of the opportunity so far with standout performances in the summer league. Teague impressed the Jazz with his ability to score efficiently and be a playmaker, putting up 26 points on 50% shooting against the Memphis Grizzlies as well as a double-double in the Jazz summer league finale with 17 points and 12 assists, convincing the Jazz to sign him.

Mitchell was the star of the summer league, leading the Kings to a 6-0 record and the summer league championship, making the Kings the first NBA franchise to win multiple summer league titles. Mitchell continued to show why his nickname is “Off-night,” given that whichever player he guards ends up having a bad game. He also showcased his offensive talents, averaging 13 points per game and four assists.

While it may be a few months until Baylor fans get to see them play in an NBA game, they’re already making an impact on their respective teams in the off-season.