"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Case for Starting Stevie Mitchell

DJ Carton's unexpected pro departure and Symir Torrence's decision to stick with transferring has left Marquette with a big void at point guard.

Granted, Marquette only returns three scholarship players to wear a Golden Eagles uniform so this is just one of many voids. 

Marquette Head Coach Shaka Smart has done a lot of work to fill the roster with as much talent as he can. In the pick-and-roll offense that Smart likes to run, the point guard is one of the most important positions on the court. 

Shaka can go the veteran route for a starter with super-senior transfer Daryl Morsell or the returning Greg Elliott, who did some point guard duty his freshman season. Smart compared sophomore transfer Tyler Kolek to the legendary Travis Diener.

The issue with those options are Morsell has been more of a combo guard and less of a facilitator with a career 2.2 assists per game and 15.7% assist percentage. Kolek only averaged 2.3 assists a game at George Mason last season and a 14.2% assist percentage. Elliott really was asked to run the point in limited minutes as a freshman back in the 2017-2018 season. The other option is giving freshman Stevie Mitchell the ball right out of the gate. 

It is sort of like the old football question with a young quarterback, do you give the rookie the ball right away or do you have him sit or limit the minute and be groomed into the position?

                    Photo Courtesy of Marquette Athletics

First, Mitchell is no ordinary freshman. He does come in with accolades as he was Pennsylvania's Gatorade Player of the Year and 2,600 career points at the high school level. He does project to being capable of handling the point. The 247sports.com scouting report states..

Stevie Mitchell is a skilled point guard prospect. He has a polished handle with advanced footwork, doing a good job of utilizing jabs and change of direction to get where he wants on the floor. He has a score-first mindset and doing so from all three levels but is also a willing and talented passer with vision who can facilitate with both hands. Areas to improve are his athleticism and speeding up his release on his jumper.

Three-Man-Weave.com described Mitchell’s game as…

Mitchell is more of a pass-first pure point, showing an impressive mid-range game and decent vision while lacking crazy athleticism; he likely will have the typical turnover and consistency issues that come with freshman point guards.

He also does not lack for confidence. He is already talking of scoring a thousand points or more at Marquette.

One thing is clear, Shaka, like every college basketball coach, loves to use his guards as the example you can see below show his guards where in Shaka’s Texas top-5 players usage rate of those who on were on the court for ten or more games last season.

Is it wise to hand out starter’s minutes to a freshman point guard in pick-and-roll, heavy guard usage offense? Just in general, is it a good idea to use a freshman over the veteran options? 

Shaka’s VCU Final Four run benefited from starting point guard Joey Rodriguez getting good minutes his freshman year. Shaka though was not involved in that decision as Rodriguez’ VCU freshman year came while Shaka was an assistant at Clemson. 

Using a program historical perspective, one thing I always remember former Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams saying about Dominic James was what made him a great point guard was not just his athletic ability but that he got the ball from day one. He was allowed to make his mistakes (He had a great freshman year) and really learned the role (He went from a scoring point guard to an all-around point guard by his senior year). 

Then again, Cordell Henry was given a heavy load from day one and had 74 turnovers his freshman campaign. There were times he made decisions that left your head scratching up until his early junior season.

Junior Cadougan was given the point guard duties on day one sort of (An injury practically wiped out his freshman year so he started his sophomore year) and only had 58 turnovers and 115 assists. He was also not the greatest athlete. 

Tony Miller was never known as a superior athletic point guard but he dished out 221 assists to just 93 turnovers his first year. 

The program historical perspective shows some of the better point guards Marquette has had over the past 30 years was given the starting nod early on in their career, they had their hiccups but ended up having really good careers in the long run. More importantly, leading their teams to March success (Well, in Henry’s case, getting to the Tournament after a couple years of missing out is still success in my book).

In the long run, it might beneficial to have Stevie Mitchell in the starting role right from the get go knowing you can back him up with Elliot, Kolek and Morsell. Also Shaka can call on switchables in Kam Jones and Emarion Ellis. 

This season projects as a rebuilding year. It will be great if Marquette can somehow get into the NCAA Tournament and exceed the ninth to tenth place Big East prediction finishes. If that does happens, the main goal of the season is to build towards a brighter future under Smart. It can start with giving the starting point guard role to Mitchell in the first game.


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