Friar Basketball

The Athletic Feature on Donovan Mitchell with a Friar Mention

Donovan Mitchell

Jeff Greer of The Athletic wrote an oral history of Donovan Mitchell’s time at Louisville that was published earlier this week. Greer is a very good read, in fact, he recently wrote a 2019-20 preview of the Friars that was as good as any written about this program at the national level.

Friar fans will remember Mitchell as one that got away. Mitchell was on PC’s campus after just completing his freshman year of high school at Canterbury to take part in PC’s Elite Camp (future commits Rodney Bullock and Paschal Chukwu were also in attendance that day).

Ed Cooley and his staff promptly offered him a scholarship and looked to be in a great position to land Mitchell until he exploded on the national scene the summer prior to his senior year of high school (a broken wrist kept him out of AAU the year prior, and he played as part of a loaded backcourt with Jared Terrell and Davonte Graham at Brewster Academy during the regular season of his junior year).

The article details how Rick Pitino pushed Mitchell to lose more than 20 pounds at Louisville and restructure his jump shot, but likely most interesting for Friar fans was the Louisville perspective on his recruitment.

From the article (subscription required):

Mike Balado, assistant coach: So (Pitino) calls me down to his office and says, “Hey, Mike. Ryan, my son, has a buddy who lives in Greenwich, Conn., and says there’s a really good player out of Brewster Academy, and I want you to follow up on him.” Ryan Pitino was the first one who put us on to Donovan Mitchell. He was ending his junior year and heading into his last AAU season, and he was a little under the radar. He had an offer from Providence and places like that, but he wasn’t really that highly recruited to start.

David Padgett, director of basketball operations: His high school career was similar to what his college career and even his NBA career have been like in that he kind of came out of nowhere. We were fortunate to get on him pretty early. He was one of those kids who blew up that summer and made a big name for himself in a short period of time.

“Providence and places like that” was certainly eye-catching. Perhaps justifiably, Louisville was dismissive of the Friars on the recruiting trail. Their success (see: 2013 national title) and other-worldly athletic budget have their program on a different plane than virtually any program in the country.

Still, PC has landed both Kris Dunn and AJ Reeves, who listed the Cards among their finalists. Providence also recently made the cut for Dematha Catholic small forward Earl Timberlake, while Louisville did not, despite rising buzz that they were in an increasingly good spot for him.

While Balado’s quote is noteworthy due to how dismissive it is, Padgett’s is more telling: “We were fortunate to get on him pretty early.”

Early for Louisville is a mid-summer offer prior to his senior year.

The article also emphasized that Mitchell wanted to go to a “blue blood” and how the deal was done almost as soon as Louisville offered in July.

In fairness, Mitchell had been quoted throughout high school that he wanted to attend a “big” school. The direction of his recruitment was hardly a surprise as he blew up in the summer, but the one thing that always stood out about his recruitment was reading that Rick Pitino offered via text.

This isn’t an indictment on Mitchell, but a reminder of the job Cooley has done to consistently bring in top talent over the past eight years.

I took a deep dive on Mitchell’s recruitment in the summer of 2014 and it’s a pretty fun look back today.

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar

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