Few things in the world of sports are certain.
A coach guaranteeing a victory? Not the smartest idea. Fans always in attendance? This past year has shown us that's not a given either.
But when it comes to successful big-men to play basketball for the Texas Longhorns? That's about as close to certain as you can get, and new Texas center Tre Mitchell might be next in line.
A transfer from UMass, Mitchell was one of the most sought-out players in the transfer portal this offseason. ESPN, WatchStadium.com, CBS Sports.com all had him in the top 10 of available transfers this summer, with each site's ranking for Mitchell coming in at No. 5, No. 2, and No. 9, respectfully.
You can imagine the excitement from new head coach Chris Beard when Mitchell officially committed in June, something both of them touched on during Mitchell's introductory press conference on Wednesday.
"Obviously I was in the portal for a lengthy amount of time, but I just kind of knew from my first phone call with Coach Beard," Mitchell said. "There was just a different energy from the phone call, he wasn't necessarily so concerned about the basketball portion. He was concerned about me as a person, and that just told me right away that he's looking for the right people to build the right culture here."
The humbleness and composure Mitchell displayed to the media on Wednesday are certainly important qualities that Beard values in his star center, but how could the new head coach ignore a 6-foot-9 paint presence with a smooth jumper?
“He could be a great pro one day, maybe sooner than later," Beard said. "He’s a position-less guy. I don’t see him as a center, he can really shoot the ball. He might be our best shooter, just sitting out there launching shots.”
"Our best shooter" is quite the label for a player who will see most of his action in the paint and in pick-and-pop action. But it just speaks to Mitchell's versatility, something he feels is the most special part of his game.
"I can pretty much do whatever you need me to do," Mitchell said. "Over my time here, I’ve developed in an amazing way. I’ve started to do some things I didn’t even know I was capable of.”
Mitchell's talent is undeniable, as he was a dominant force for the UMass Minutemen during his two seasons with the team. Last year, he earned first-team All-Atlantic 10 honors after averaging 18.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks on 52 percent shooting.
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These numbers, combined with Mitchell's size and effortless ability to stretch the floor, are the perfect recipe for an NBA-ready big-man. It's not farfetched to think that he could join the likes of Myles Turner, Jarrett Allen, Mo Bamba, Jaxon Hayes, and Kai Jones as former Texas centers since 2015 to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft.
Sure, these first-round aspirations are cute and all, but Mitchell is focused on the here and now as he looks to make it his time on the Forty Acres.
"I'd probably say I'm trying to pave my own path because no two people are the same," Mitchell said. "So I have to develop myself in different ways and work on different things than past guys have done because the game has changed as well. So I'm just really focused on my craft and improving in every way that I can."
As a native of Pittsburgh, Mitchell has had to adjust to life in the heart of Texas but admitted the process has been made easier, as over half of the team are new transfers as well.
“Coming from so many different backgrounds and having so many transfers you wouldn’t think we’d gel as quickly as we did," Mitchell said. "But I guess all of us being transfers kinda gave us something to relate to, so we’re all experiencing this place at the same time.”
Labeling the offseason as a success for Beard and staff might be an understatement considering the level of transfer talent that will be on the court this November. Yet, the newly acquired talent presents fresh challenges for Mitchell and his new teammates.
“It wasn’t really about being a star for me," Mitchell said. "I obviously loved my time at UMass and I wouldn’t change it for the world cause I learned so many things while I was there. But coming here and being surrounded by other guys that are called stars is just another opportunity. There’s just another level to practice every single day. If you don’t bring it every single day you’re going to get exposed. It’s been a pleasure for me honestly.”
What more could you want from a group that is still getting to know one another every single day? These offseason challenges are the first of many steps the team will take throughout the season, with Mitchell at the center of it all.
“Everybody wants to see the person next to them get better, and we push each other every single day," Mitchell said. “That’s what makes us special. We’re gonna do something special this year.”
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