Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Since Transitioning To Four, Spring Valley's Mitchell Heating Up

Aspects of Kai Mitchell's game have changed the past four months.

The 6-foot-6 forward has leaned more on a 16-foot jumper. He's transitioned to the short corner and the high post, expanding his offensive portfolio.

He's powered up more and crushed double-fisted dunks. 

Playing alongside Scanlan's 6-foot-9 center Jonathon Nwankwo with House of Sports on the AAU circuit, Mitchell has been able to roam freely in the trenches and seize a variety.

Mitchell has also displayed a fleet of foot, from rim-to-rim, that's rare for a 250-pounder.

Don't stand in near the tracks when the train is coming through.

"He's a one dribble, go to the rim threat," House of Sports AAU coach Andy Borman explained. "He's the type of guy that, you don't have much time to react to. He's a shot-fake, drive guy. If you do close out on him, he's going by. If you don't, he can shoot the mid-range."

If you overplay the Spring Valley junior, he can deliver interior passes and utilize the entire floor.

Coaches from Manhattan and Monmouth hawked Mitchell during an AAU tournament at Wesleyan University this past weekend, but Borman expects the man-child to be sifting through plenty more offers this spring and summer.

Canisius has now inquired, expressing considerable excitement.

"It's a short list right now and I think three months from now, we're going to be laughing at how small the list is," Borman deadpanned.

"This weekend really helped him. I think he's the type of guy that's going to have about 16-20 really good schools on him, come the July live period."

Borman orchestrated an impromptu team meeting Friday night, before HOS departed for the Middletown, Conn., campus.

"One of the points of emphasis in the meeting was pretty much informing these guys of how it works," Borman said.

"These college coaches and analysts and scouting services, for the most part know who can play and who can't. You don't need to go out there and try to overimpress. Go out there and be unselfish. Go out there and make smart plays. That's what's really going to (wow) college coaches."

Perusing the NBA playoffs action, Borman stumbled upon an interview with Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson. It ended up having special resonance with House of Sports. Behind a podium, peppered with myriad questions, Jackson was asked about the driving force behind Steph Curry's stellar post-season explosion.

Jackson illustrated the point with a few simple and straightforward statements. One thing he did say is that the Warriors' cold-blooded guard "takes what the game gives him."

And so during the team meeting, House of Sports acknowledged that they cannot take what the game doesn't give them. There was no further concerns about overdribbling, selfishness, or the me-first one-on-one moves that tends to make AAU confusable with West Fourth Street.

During the tournament, Jackson's words stuck.

"Because of the player Rickey McGill is, every team we played honed in on him," Borman explained. "Because of that, Rickey made the right play over and over and he never forced it. The other teams chose to try and shut Rickey down and Salim (Green) showed them that was a big freaking mistake."

Green, a heavily-courted Ivy League target, scored from all levels throughout the weekend. He punctuated on his weekend with a four-point play and several traditional 3-point plays.

With several opponents, including top-tier MAINE NATION, focused on limiting and minimizing the backcourt,  the seams opened up for Mitchell and a super-sized front line.

HOS advanced all the way to the championship.

Subscribing to the John Chaney model, "We're not going to prepare for other people, we're going to prepare ourselves," the HOS 17U team continues to form a household name.

 Given the instability of the AAU season, given the fact that it's damn near impossible to scout AAU teams and break down film because of the scattered tournaments and piecemeal rosters, prepation is arduous.

 Embodying a team that plays AAU basketball and not an AAU team, as Borman has rehydrated time and time again, a team identity has slowly developed.

Heading into the tournament, most teams had a read on Rickey McGill and Salim Green. Now, they know plenty more about Kai Mitchell and Nwankwo. Gobbling up boards and operating in the post, the 6-foot-10 Nwankwo has emerged into one of the city's surefire Division-I targets.

"The fact is, Kai runs really well and has great hands," Borman said.

"Kai and Jonathon, they are used to being on their own. Now, it's kind of like they have a brother in arms next to each other. Some guys would take it the wrong way and say, "I want to be the only guy (in the paint). They've embraced it."

A steady evolution remains.

"I think our best basketball is in front of us," Borman said. "But our kids played hard and they played unselfish."