Posted May 31, 2013 3:23 PM
This is the part where Tony Mitchell puts his mind on display.
His physical gifts have never been in doubt. Physical gifts are why Mitchell began his sophomore season at North Texas as a lottery possibility and are now the reason he still has a good shot at the first round of the Draft -- despite his best efforts at playing his way out of guaranteed money.
"He's the best athlete here," is how one general manager described Mitchell at the Chicago pre-Draft combine a couple weeks ago, a gathering of most of the top prospects. "It's not even close. He's a freak of nature."
Now Mitchell, given the chance to pass blame the way a lot of prospects would have, has decided to go with honesty.
The effort last season?
Understanding that NBA teams are skeptical after the 2012-13 showing?
Admitting it could force him down into the second round?
Mitchell readily admits that he gave into the gloom of a 12-20 season at UNT and a coaching change, when the proper response would have been to fight through it.
"I feel like since our season was so tough, I couldn't get up for the games somewhat," he said. "We had a losing record, so it was tough for us to get up for games, for everybody. At the same time, I tried to be a positive influence each and every game. There's no excuse for that. Effort is yourself and individually. It's really no excuse. I just have to show them that I can give effort now."
Front offices are weighing multi-million dollar investments, and with Mitchell, they have to decide on a player who should have crushed the Sun Belt Conference on athleticism alone yet struggled to deliver consistent energy. Not that Mitchell doesn't regret how he handled things.
"Most definitely I do," he said. "This is the same question every time. I wish I could have changed it. But at this point I can't. I just have to keep going, keep on going forward and just work hard."
He was asked what he would have changed most of all.
"I would just change my effort," Mitchell said. "How I competed each and every game. Not go up and down and just have a straight path and just go straight. Keep playing 110 percent each and every day.
"I think it hurt [his Draft stock] a lot. With me being a top-five pick in the beginning of the season, from where I'm at now, I think it tremendously hurt me."
He is likely headed to somewhere around the 20s -- he's at 26 to the Timberwolves in the NBA.com mock draft -- with the possibility of getting into the late teens if a particularly trusting team believes the lesson has been learned. Or he could fall into the 30s and the second round. That would be a blow. It just wouldn't be a shock.
"It's the same questions," he said. "Each and every time I sit down, they ask me the same questions. I'm ready to prove them wrong and show them that I can play 100 percent each and every day."
Mitchell, a 6-foot-9, 236-pound combo forward, views himself in the Kenneth Faried mold. That's an accurate assessment on his athleticism, his versatility and his ability to impact a game with defense. But the last thing anyone questioned about Faried coming into the 2011 Draft, or since, was his intensity.
Mitchell has only a few more weeks to convince teams that he has enough of that to make a difference.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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