North Texas Daily

Mitchell to declare for NBA draft

Mitchell to declare for NBA draft

March 20
22:42 2013

Tyler Owens / Sports Editor

Sophomore forward, All-American Tony Mitchell – one of the most highly touted athletes to ever wear a Mean Green uniform – announced he plans to declare for this year’s NBA draft at a press conference on Wednesday.

Members of the media, UNT athletics staff, UNT basketball players and coaches, members of Mitchell’s family, his high school coach and his fraternity brothers all packed Apogee Stadium’s Mercer Press Lounge for the announcement.

“This is my dream and I’ve decided that I’m going to put in my name and declare for the NBA draft and go on from there,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell was a national top-25 recruit coming out of high school and has won numerous awards since joining the Mean Green in 2011. Mitchell was named Sun Belt Conference freshman of the year last season and was honored as member of the All-Sun Belt team in both seasons at UNT.

Mitchell had the option to enter last year’s draft, but chose to stay in school, even after the departure of former head coach Johnny Jones, who took the head coaching job at Louisiana State University.

Despite the Mean Green’s rocky season, which ended with a 12-20 record, Mitchell, his mother, Angie and head coach Tony Benford said that it proved beneficial for him to stay.

“We didn’t have the success that we wanted this year, but I can guarantee that Tony was accountable every day,” Benford said. “He’s matured on and off the court and I think he’s prepared for the next step.”

Mitchell said that he was thankful for the opportunity to work with the coaching staff during his final season at UNT.

“Coach [Benford] is a life changer,” he said. “These guys changed our lives. They held us accountable, they made us work every day. I mean, they cussed us out, but it was a fun year.”

Many draft experts feel that Mitchell’s draft stock has plummeted following this season. Before his second season at UNT began, he was ranked by CBS Sports as the No. 7 player in the NCAA, but he is now projected to be selected late in the first round of the draft.

Mitchell said he made his decision to leave after talking with his family and coaches in the week following the Mean Green’s 74-55 loss to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in the first round of the SBC Tournament on March 8.

If selected, Mitchell would be the 16th UNT player to be taken in the NBA draft. The last was John Horrocks, who was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 1984.

Athletic Director Rick Villarreal said that Mitchell’s success would be beneficial to the future of the university and its athletic programs.

“[His success] shows that wherever you go and play basketball, it doesn’t really matter,” Villarreal said. “If you can play in the NBA, people are going to find you. As far as Tony is concerned, his abilities showed through. We know great things are going to happen with him. But regardless, he’s been a great representative and will continue to be that.”

Sophomore guard Jordan Williams said that he knows fans have high expectations of Mean Green basketball in the future, but that there is no added pressure even after Mitchell’s departure.

“We’ve got good players coming in and we have to do what we can to win Conference USA,” he said. “People expect a lot from us, so I know that’s going to be there, but we have the mindset of just working hard and playing hard and not worrying about what the media is saying and all that and go out there and win some games.”

Senior guard Roger Franklin said that Mitchell entering the draft will inspire the younger members to work harder in the coming years.

“This move, for the team, shows that dreams can come true,” Franklin said. “Now Tony has the opportunity to showcase his skills and show the rest of these guys that hard work really does pay off.”

The NBA draft will take place at 7 p.m. on June 27 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It will be nationally televised on ESPN.

Mean Green basketball forward Tony Mitchell takes a moment to rub the shoulders of his mother Angie Mitchell before his NBA Draft announcement. Photo by Christopher G. Lewis/Intern

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