by Alan Hieber
Being a facilitator for an offense in any collegiate team sport is no easy task. Wright State’s 6-4 junior guard Justin Mitchell has a level of competitiveness and determination comparable to his size, making him the right candidate to take on that role.
The passion for basketball started at an early age for Mitchell when he took his first shots at a plastic rim in his house. About a year later when he was six years old his father helped him make his debut on the court.
“He put me in a men’s over-30 league at a church. I can remember I hit a shot by the free throw line,” Mitchell recalled. “Everybody was praising me because I was younger and made a shot.”
Mitchell went on to have a successful playing career at Wayne High School in Fort Wayne, Ind. Following high school he visited WSU with his head coach Aaron Rehrer and former Raider standout and Fort Wayne native Vernard Hollins.
Former Raider coach Billy Donlon told Mitchell he could develop him into a strong guard. He says his coach and Hollins felt WSU would have the most to offer him, and his decision was made.
After WSU coach Scott Nagy was hired during the past offseason, Mitchell reached out to him to discuss his role on the team.
“I texted coach Nagy and told him that I wanted a chance to be the player I knew I was capable of being,” Mitchell said. “He has trusted me all year and gave me the role as a leader of this team. I’m blessed he put me in the position I am in now.”
This season Mitchell has showcased the dynamic nature of his game as the leader for WSU in assists and rebounds combined with his 11.3 points per game scoring average.
“I’m working more on being a facilitator on the court to find open guys and get more assists,” Mitchell said. “I’ve always been able to read how the ball comes off the rim. With me being a bigger point guard I can get the rebounds when my teammates block the other guys out.”
On February 11 against Green Bay Mitchell had a game that cemented his name in the Raider record books when he recorded a triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. This was only the third time a WSU player accomplished the feat.
“When I realized I had it, I was so happy because my teammates made shots for me and blocked out guys, so I was able to rebound and put a few points on the board,” Mitchell said.
Coincidently the only other two WSU players to get a triple-double were Fort Wayne natives, including Keion Brooks and Hollins who has mentored Mitchell and attended some of his practices and games.
Mitchell’s roommate is the Raiders’ leading scorer Mark Alstork, who he says pushes him in practices and provides a source of motivation.
“Through the hard times we keep each other positive and remind each other what we do it for,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell and Alstork built their bond further after staying in an apartment together over the summer. The competitive duo would spent hours in the gym, went swimming, stretched and ran miles around campus. They also shared their faith through bible readings.
“Our relationship grew. He (Alstork) is like my brother,” Mitchell said.
In the classroom Mitchell is a communication studies major. His eyes are set on playing professionally in the NBA one day, but he also expressed an interest in acting and music.
Music is something Mitchell already has performance experience with.
“Growing up I was in a singing group with my other two brothers. My dad had us singing like the Jackson 5,” Mitchell said. “We were called the Revolution X and went to different states to sing in competitions.”
When asked about what moments have stood out this season Mitchell demonstrated his selflessness by mentioning significant games for his teammates.
Grant Benzinger’s 19 rebounds one night, Alstork leading the nation in scoring average early in the season, Steven Davis’ dunks appearing on Sportcenter top plays and Parker Ernsthausen’s 22-point game were included.
The Raiders focus will soon shift to the Horizon League tournament that commences March 3 and the automatic NCAA tournament bid that will be on the line. Mitchell will be sure to have a say in making that happen.
“I’m so thankful to be a part of this team and the culture that we’ve built this year,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully, we can keep it going and get a championship for Wright State.”