Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

COLUMN: Welcome Tre Mitchell back to Big 12 play

It was some type of spin move that turned into a fadeaway jumper along the baseline that Tre Mitchell decided to make his first shot of the game Monday night.

Erik Stevenson’s opinion: “I’m like there’s no way that’s going in, but it ended up going in.”
Minutes later, Stevenson was watching his teammates from the bench when he saw the 6-foot-9 Mitchell post up near the rim.

“He goes over his right shoulder, left hand with a jump hook and he got the roll,” Stevenson said. “I could see a little bounce in his step after that. I knew it was going to be a good day for him.”

It is here we welcome Mitchell back to the thick of the Big 12 season.

He ended up scoring a season-high 22 points on 8 of 15 shooting in West Virginia’s 85-67 victory against Oklahoma State in front of 11,874 fans inside the Coliseum.

If there were some out there who had sort of forgotten Mitchell was an impact player for the Mountaineers, that’s understandable.

His previous five games were nothing worth writing home about, a combined 10 of 33 (30.3%) shooting in which he never came close to making the impact he had earlier in the season

“Obviously it takes a little bit of a toll mentally, because I want to be able to be out there for my team,” Mitchell said. “The reality of it is I just stayed the course and stayed in the gym and kept working. The work is bound over time. I’m not going to abandon my work ethic and just keep going. I think it will show coming down the stretch.”

It showed against the Cowboys (16-12, 7-8 Big 12), but just not offensively.

In the postgame discussion, WVU head coach Bob Huggins was quick to call this the most complete game played by Mitchell all season, because he added good defensive pressure to go along with his shot making.

“I thought he moved his feet today better than I’ve ever seen him move his feet,” Huggins said. “I’m really proud of how far he’s come, because, defensively, I didn’t think he could spell it. He just didn’t know anything about defense.”

And then there was his power moves around the rim and an assortment of baby hooks, and then a whole lot of passion from the usually passive Mitchell.

That came in the middle of the second half in a game that was pretty much over when Mitchell got tied up with Oklahoma State’s Kalib Boone and both players grappled to the ground.

Afteward, Mitchell sort of played the moment off as two competitive players playing hard, but Mitchell bounced up from the scrum with a look in his eye that just hasn’t been there the previous 27 games.

So, what exactly does WVU (16-12, 5-10) have here? Well, it seems to have suddenly found some sort of defensive presence, albeit against a team that’s eighth in the Big 12 in scoring and last in team shooting percentage.

The real test comes Saturday against third-ranked Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.

But, what the Jayhawks will have to contend with is the sudden reemergence of Mitchell to go along with a solid-shooting Stevenson. They both combined for 45 points against the Cowboys.
The odds are long, sure, but weird things happen.

Mitchell is now developing into a more complete player, and that would have seemed rather odd when you went back to the start of the season and saw only his offensive game.
That, too, is coming back seemingly at the right time.

“He’s a guy who maybe can and should have a career in basketball,” Huggins said of Mitchell. “I think he’s moving in the direction he needs to move in order to do that. I think when he first got here, he wasn’t doing that.”

TWEET @bigjax3211