By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - One way to, as Bruce Pearl puts it, make Auburn basketball relevant once again, is to recruit players who envision high ceilings for their time on the Plains.
In Davion Mitchell’s case, there’s no ceiling at all.
“We all talk about national championship,” Mitchell says of his conversations with fellow signees Chuma Okeke and Austin Wiley.
For a program that last played in the NCAA Tournament in 2003, the extent of Mitchell’s positivity is striking.
With a recruiting class ranked No. 2 nationally, perhaps that degree of optimism is understandable.
“Yes, we can,” Mitchell says. “I see it. Especially with coaches like Coach Pearl and Chuck Person and Coach Adler and all of them.”
Mitchell, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound guard from Hinesville, Ga., signed with Auburn on Wednesday.
“When I went there, they treated me like family,” Mitchell says. “I especially like the way Coach Pearl coaches his kids. Makes his players work hard, you can see it. They make you train hard and they make you a lot better.”
Dunks, dribbling and outside shooting make the highlight reel, but Mitchell makes his mark at the other end of the court.
“I take pride in defense, because that’s how you get easy points,” he says. “When the guards know about your defense, they’re kind of scared. They don’t want to dribble near you, so that’s why I take advantage, play better defense, get easy steals and easy points.”
Mitchell learned how to lock down opponents from his uncles, all of whom he says were excellent players. His uncle, Derrick Mitchell, was especially instructive.
“When I was younger, my uncle used to play defense on me,” Mitchell says. “He taught me different ways to steal the ball. So I know different ways to steal the ball, like when they spin. The person with the ball, I set him up where I want him, and I just take the ball.”
“Davion Mitchell is one of the most physical defenders anywhere in high school basketball,” says Pearl. “There is not a better on-the-ball defender than Davion Mitchell. If I put you on him, you’re not going to score that night, but he can also score. He can also make plays. He’s a winner. He brought a state championship to his hometown. He’s a terrific young man. We’re going to have great point guard play because of Jared Harper and Davion Mitchell running that position.”
Mitchell averaged 24.2 points and 7.1 assists as a junior, leading Liberty County High School to its first Georgia Class 4A state championship.
Mitchell, who wants to study physical therapy and sports medicine, believes he has the prescription to lead Auburn basketball to places it’s never been.
“Good defender. Like to shoot threes,” he says. “And I like transition offense.”
— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) November 9, 2016
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer