Name: Akil Mitchell
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
School: Charlotte Christian
Rivals: three stars
ESPN: 91, #35 SF
Scout: two stars
How big a sleeper is Akil Mitchell? How much information is out there on the Internet about him? Put it this way: when you Google up his name, this very blog - which up til now has had no information on Mitchell beyond "I dunno" - is third in the results list. Mitchell wasn't even showing up in all the databases until he committed a few weeks ago. (It really seems like a lot longer than that.)
Anyway. Tony Bennett, having stocked the cupboard for 2010 with four fairly-well known quantities (yes, even Harrell), had the luxury of going a little deeper into the well and picking out someone based more on their showing at camps and such rather than their track record. A project. And you won't find many players that fit the definition of a project better than Mitchell.
For starters, nobody can quite agree whether he's better suited for the three or the four. Right now, the answer is three for sure, where he says he feels most comfortable. And the scouting report here reads exactly like a three ought to read. Plus, he's a little short for the four. Right now our options at power forward are basically Scott, Meyinsse, and Tucker, and they're all taller. Mitchell might get taller his own self, though. He's skinny and certainly not done growing outwards - once he gets to UVA, Mike Curtis will set him to work bulking up. He might not be done growing upwards, either, and if he does that he'll be just right for the four.
The other term that keeps popping up for Mitchell is "late bloomer." I'm not sure if that's quite as fair. Mitchell was injured his freshman year of high school and so got a bit of a late start. Last year, his junior year, he was simply overshadowed by talented seniors on his team. Digging up old boxscores shows that Mitchell really wasn't the go-to guy most nights; the leading scorer for Charlotte Christian last year was usually a kid named Willis Hall, who this year will be a freshman at College of Charleston. So Mitchell wasn't the guy everyone was intending to see when they went to a CC game. And why should they notice the skinny kid who hadn't had much of a growth spurt yet?
It's hard not to like the scouting reports that have trickled down the pipe about Mitchell, but at the same time it's hard to know what to make of them. I mean, when's the last time an ACC team signed a player, whether in college he was a superstar or a yutz, whose scouting reports out of the camps said, "too slow, too small, won't rebound, can't shoot"? They're all the same sort of shining write-ups that often just seem to rearrange the words from player to player. But that in itself is encouraging - that Tony Bennett can run out and dig up one of these sorts of players (and ESPN has given him a pretty good grade) that can legitimately be called an ACC-caliber guy and yet hadn't had any looks from ACC teams. Plus, y'know, he's smart. Got that 4+ GPA at a tough school. Can't complain about that.
So Mitchell probably won't be the kind who comes in right away and jumps right into the rotation. As much as anything it'll be because the coaches will be figuring out where he best fits. Even now we know about what kind of players we're expecting Joe Harris and James Johnson and such to be. What I'm hoping for out of Mitchell is that he can develop into being a really versatile and really valuable bench guy that can be put in the game as either the small guy in a big lineup or the big guy in a small lineup, depending on the situation. Someone who might not be able to go toe-to-toe with the ACC heavyweight starters, but does a little bit of everything well enough to create matchup nightmares for other teams' bench guys. In other words, what Jamil Tucker might be if he could defend anyone.