Donovan Mitchell didn’t think he’d make it to the NBA.
At least, not during the 2017-2018 regular season. The 21-year-old Mitchell, then a former Louisville Cardinals standout, didn’t like the odds of his being drafted last June, much less be handed the reins to one of the league’s oldest and most revered franchises. A year ago, he thought he’d be stuck on campus, twiddling his thumbs, waiting for his day in the sun.
But things turned out differently. Mitchell was drafted 13th overall by the Denver Nuggets, only to be traded on draft night to the Utah Jazz.
Little did anyone expect how meteoric Spida’s rise to stardom would be; in his first season, Mitchell broke the team’s scoring record for rookies, won the Slam Dunk Contest (in a potent homage to Vince Carter), and led the Jazz to a first-round Playoff victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, whose dynamic star point-guard is a hero of Donovan’s.
“Growing up, Russell [Westbrook] was my favorite player,” Mitchell tells the press in Manila,when asked about his “welcome-to-the-NBA” moment. The press conference was part of the adidas rookie promotion held in the newly expanded adidas store in Two Parkade, BGC, Taguig, last June 17.
“He stopped me and spoke to me [after a game], so that was something special. That went a long way for me, because I knew he doesn’t do that for everybody.”
Mitchell, despite last season’s achievements, was quick to acknowledge the role of his teammates in his success. Among his teammates, he cited point guard Ricky Rubio and forward Joe Ingles as active mentors.
More importantly, Mitchell attributes the successes of last season to the cohesion of their unit.
“We just have guys that love to move the ball. In the NBA that’s not common,” Mitchell discloses. “I don’t mean that negatively. There are teams like the Rockets that are islation-based, or the cavs who run through lebron, and it works.”
“For us, we just like to move the ball, and that starts with our chemistry off the floor. We hang out with each other, go places. That’s also uncommon [in the league].”
Demands of next year
Despite the acclaim for last season’s campaign, the explosive Mitchell is intent on forgetting all about it. He’s setting out to be ‘ten times better’ than he was last year.
“Just getting better defensively, and taking less shots,” Mitchell replies, asked which aspects of his game he wants to improve on. “Better passes, less turnovers, and finding ways to hit tougher shots. I’ve got to be able ten times better than I was last year.”