North Texas Daily

Mitchell returns with accolades, high hopes

Mitchell returns with accolades, high hopes

October 17
00:59 2012

Tyler Owens / Senior Staff Writer

When the Mean Green basketball team opens its schedule on Nov. 1 with an exhibition against East Central, all eyes will be on sophomore forward Tony Mitchell.

After deciding not to enter the 2012 NBA draft, Mitchell returns to UNT with high expectations surrounding him.

One of his teammates, senior guard Roger Franklin, said Mitchell has a bright future ahead of him because of his willingness to work hard.

“They always say, ‘Don’t believe the hype,’ but being his roommate, besides the fact that he eats all the food and drinks a lot of Gatorade, he is worth the hype,” Franklin said.

Last year, Mitchell was named Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and was predicted to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft. This year, before the season has even begun, he has collected multiple preseason awards.

Mitchell was named to the preseason All-America team by CBS Sports, Basketball Times Magazine, Athlon Sports and ESPN Blue Ribbon Report and was ranked as the No. 7 player in the nation by CBS Sports.

In addition, he was featured on the cover of the October issue of Basketball Times magazine, and NBADraftExpress.com predicts him to go No. 8 in the 2013 NBA draft if he forgoes his junior year at the end of the season.

After Mitchell opted to return to UNT, former head coach Johnny Jones left the Mean Green for Louisiana State University, and Mitchell had second thoughts on whether returning was the best idea for his career. After working with the new head coach Tony Benford, Mitchell has no more concerns.

“Because my coach had left, I thought I might have to leave too, but at the same time I had another great coach coming in and that is Tony Benford,” Mitchell said. “He’s helping me grow each day, on and off the court, being accountable for me and my teammates.”

Since taking the job at UNT, Benford has challenged Mitchell to go above and beyond the expectations that the experts have set for him.

“My challenge to him is to lead the country in rebounding,” Benford said. “The thing I talked to him about when I got the job was making his game more efficient, really tightening up his game on the offensive end, his ball handing and his post-up game to have him take care of the ball, because people are going to throw it to him a lot.”

With all of the preseason accolades, Mitchell said he doesn’t feel any added individual pressure this season. He said he’s “humbled” by all the attention that he and the team have been getting this year.

The Mean Green will also not settle for just a conference championship this year.

“Expectations are being successful, winning over 24 games, making a tournament run and winning the Sun Belt Conference,” Mitchell said. “As I look at it, I’ve got to live up to the hype. I’m ready to take on whatever comes.”

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