LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A year ago at this time, Donovan Mitchell was winding down his Sophomore season with the University of Louisville and thinking he would very possibly be returning for his Junior season. That changed after some post-season workouts with a couple of NBA all-stars.
"Guys that I worked out with thought I was ready," said Mitchell. "At a time I didn't know, to have guys like C.P. (Chris Paul) and Paul George tell you that you're ready gives you a different type of confidence to go out there and prepare like you are leaving school and that's when I made my decision."
It was a very wise decision.
Mitchell has gotten an opportunity with a Utah team that was re-tooling and then had some early-season injuries. And he has never looked back, becoming the leading scorer on his team and among all rookies at over 19-points-a-game. And while he's still a sensational dunker, he's continued to evolve into a force at both ends of the floor, improving his three-point shot and mid-range game and becoming a better defender. He's been adaptable and a very quick learner.
"In Donovan's case, the mental side of the game is something he's really gravitated towards," Jazz Head Coach Quin Snyder told me. "He's been in the classroom and he's skipped a couple of grades."
"Donovan has the 'it' factor," said Jazz broadcaster Craig Bolerjack, who's covered the team since 1985. "He's a sponge. The coaches tell me that you tell him something once and he retains it, which is unheard of for a rookie. He's a tremendous player, a great athlete and I think an even better person."
Mitchell was taken 13th in the NBA draft last spring. He's already won the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for December and January and is among the top two in the race for league Rookie of the Year with Ben Simmons of Philadelphia. He credits his teammates for allowing him to voice his opinion and become one of the team leaders despite being in his first year. And he's become a leader of a team that has now won ten straight games and is in the mix for a playoff berth.
And Mitchell hasn't forgotten his teammates and fans at U of L. He follows the team's progress closely and is in regular contact with a number of team members.
"David Padgett and the coaching staff are doing a great job," said Mitchell. "There's no blueprint for what they're going through. The city and the fans have their back. The way they're handling it is great, respect to those guys."
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