Forward Mickey Mitchell had to sit out the first eight games for ASU basketball, but Mitchell is showing his worth for the Sun Devils.
The Arizona State basketball team is better with forward Mickey Mitchell on the court.
No, that isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact. In the two games that he has seen significant action, Sunday vs. Vanderbilt (+13) and Tuesday against Longwood (+27), ASU is +40 when the 6-foot-7 forward is on the court.
His contributions don’t always light up the stat sheet, scoring 20 total points in 56 minutes of action this season, but Mitchell contributions come in multiple areas all over the court.
The Ohio State transfer, who was forced to sit out the Devils’ first eight games due to the NCAA transfer rules, was touted as a great passer, but with the quartet of great guards that ASU has, Mitchell is showing off his plethora of skills.
Facing Vanderbilt in his first game getting extended minutes, the sophomore became a monster on the glass, grabbing 13 rebounds, including 10 in the first half.
Against Longwood Tuesday, he seemed to answer any questions that folks in Tempe had about every other part of his game.
He said he couldn’t dunk a year ago, how are his hops?
They look fine.
What about the passing that many have touted him for?
It hasn’t gone away.
His length and athleticism are very present, and they’re no doubt great, but most of the plays that make Mitchell special are just pure hustle plays.
No matter where he’s at on the court, if it’s at the free throw line or behind the arc in the corner, Mitchell crashes the boards – hoping that his athleticism can help him get at least a finger on the ball, if not get some points out of it.
“I try to crash as much as I can to put us in a position to get either a kick-out or a put back or just an extra possession,” Mitchell said. “Every possession matters.”
Extra possessions seem to be in Mitchell’s basketball DNA, whether it be generating steals that lead to points on the other end, including the two he’s had the past two games, or blocking shots that puts the ball in his teammates hands, his actions turn into possessions and eventually points, even if they’re not credited to him.
“If I see it on the ground, I’m going to go get it,” Mitchell said. “If I see a shot I can block I’m going to go try and do it. It’s just how I play, it’s just my nature.”
In just a short time, the Plano, Texas native has dazzled — adding size, depth and possibly a spark to a team that, before he was able to play, hadn’t lost a game.
Against Kansas he played just six minutes. Some of that was rust and some may have been head coach Bobby Hurley not quite wanting to work in a new player in such a big game.
Regardless, Mitchell didn’t feel like there was any pressure on him to continue the Devils momentum.
“I never really feel like I have pressure on me,” Mitchell said. “I just feel like I have to go out and do my job, as long as I give my effort shots may fall, but all I know is I’m going to give my effort.”
His effort has propelled him up the depth charts as well. After just five halves of basketball under his belt in the maroon and gold, Hurley decided to make a move Tuesday, rewarding Mitchell for the early impact he’s made by giving him the second half start against Longwood.
“Mickey earned to start in the second half, bottom line,” Hurley said. “It was a close game and he played the best of anybody in the first half, not necessarily just scoring points but just how hard he was playing and competing.”
Some may have thought that Mitchell started the first half as well, coming in for forward Vitaliy Shibel just 1:44 in the game and constantly being the Devils lone forward on the court amongst the four guards.
Tuesday night, Hurley said that Mitchell was brought in so early because of the zone the Lancers were playing, that “Mickey, in the high post, was a better move. Just because he can pass well and he can drive to the hoop from that position.”
But, as Mitchell gets more playing time and experience with the Sun Devils, it seems like only a matter of time before he shifts into the starting lineup. The current starter and the man that Mitchell came in for, Shibel, played just seven minutes and finished the game -3.
Mitchell may also be an aid to the Devils early-game struggles. They trailed 13-0 out of the gates to Vanderbilt, not making a shot for over five minutes, and vs. Longwood, whom they were favored by 37.5 against, ASU took only a five-point lead into the locker room.
If the Devils early shots aren’t falling and Romello White is struggling around the rim, Mitchell, driving to the hole, could be the perfect guy to get ASU its early offense.
But, starting lineup or not, his effort doesn’t change.
“If I’m on the court, I’m on the court,” Mitchell said. “It doesn’t matter when I get in or how I get in, how many we’re up, how many we’re down – I’m going to give you the same effort.”
All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.