SALT LAKE CITY — What was Donovan Mitchell like during his college days at Louisville?
The Athletic’s Jeff Greer gives a detailed insight into that time of the Utah Jazz star guard’s life in an oral history told through teammates and team personnel.
David Padgett, Louisville’s director of basketball operations, explained Mitchell “kind of came out of nowhere” the summer when the Cardinals offered him a scholarship. “He was one of those kids who blew up that summer and made a big name for himself in a short period of time.”
Greer goes in-depth on a variety of topics about the beloved guard. Among them:
— Mitchell earned the nickname "Sliders" during practice as a freshman at Louisville, when he showed his potential leading the second team or scout team. "We’d call him 'Sliders,' because it was like when you play 'NBA 2K' and you put the game sliders all the way up to 99 or 100," teammate Damion Lee said. "It’s just like, 'What the (expletive) is going on? What is this dude doing? He’s making everything, making these crazy passes, dunking on people.'"
— Mitchell’s appetite for food was legendary among his teammates and staff members, even as head coach Rick Pitino stressed to him the need to lose weight — Mitchell went from 225 pounds as a freshman down to 195 heading into his sophomore year.
“I mean it was on some Joey Chestnut levels. The man can eat,” Lee said.
One time, Mitchell asked a student manager, Matt Melander, to sneak his a piece of cake when his mother sent a cake to campus to celebrate his birthday, to avoid the watchful eye of Pitino. It wasn’t the only time he snuck food, and one teammate’s aunt gave him the name “Pork Chop” after a dinner visit for the high number of pork chops he ate that night.
— Mitchell’s appetite to learn and grow his basketball game was also insatiable.
He was a video nut: "We had an app we used to put our games and edits on for the guys to watch. We could track how much and how often they were watching, and Donovan was always the No. 1 guy — hours and hours ahead of everyone else,” video coordinator Michael Bowden said. Mitchell, as Greer’s research revealed, watched old NBA games to study moves and find things he could add to his game.
During the offseason before sophomore year, he showed an “alpha mentality” in some late-night pickup games that featured NBA veteran Rajon Rondo and former Louisville star Larry O’Bannon.
“With college kids, when the game was on the line or closer to game point, they tended not to shoot the ball and they’d give it back to the pros. Not Donovan. He wasn’t afraid of the moment. He did it in a humble way, but that stuck out. He felt like he belonged," O'Bannon told Greer.
Other linksComment on this story
And finally ...
BYU and Utah kicked off fall camp Wednesday with their first practices. Here's a look at the team highlights from each session.