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Meet the Horns: A star at UMass, Tre Mitchell comfortable fitting in on the low block

Pittsburgh native eager to show multiple skills with Longhorns: ‘I can pretty much do whatever you need me to do.’

Former UMass forward Tre Mitchell had plenty of dunks with the Minutemen. Now at Texas, Mitchell is expected to hold down the middle with Utah transfer Timmy Allen.

College athletes can spend their downtime finding all sorts of mischief. Tre Mitchell left Austin on a flight back home to his native Pittsburgh to spend a week with grade-schoolers.

Each day in mid-August, the Tre Mitchell Summer Basketball Day Camp started at 10 a.m. and ran until 2 p.m. Basketballers from age 5-18 were welcome to attend.

Texas’ new 6-foot-9 transfer was glad to teach Pittsburgh-area kids the “Hook ’em” hand sign.

“Did y’all play any defense in that camp or just a bunch of jump shots?,” UT coach Chris Beard joked.

“There were a lot of post hooks in the camp, some ball handling,” Mitchell said Wednesday. “There was some defense going on, some raised voices.”

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Texas fans may see plenty of post moves and perimeter ball handling from the former UMass standout. He was also named the Atlantic 10’s rookie of the year for 2020. Mitchell averaged 17.7 points as a freshman, then bumped it up to 18.8 as a sophomore with the Minutemen.

Former UMass forward Tre Mitchell averaged 17.7 points as a freshman and 18.8 as a sophomore before transferring to Texas.

Synergy Sports analytics calculated that Mitchell averaged 7.5 points per game last season from post-up moves alone. 

Beard loves the fact Mitchell is also a career 34.2% shooter from 3-point range.

“By NBA standards, he’s probably not an elite athlete. But he makes up for that with skill. He is as skilled a forward there is in college basketball,” Beard said. “He’s got that poise, that IQ, that Magic Johnson personally. Well, that translates on the floor, too.”

And Mitchell’s defense?

“It’s a process,” the coach said.

“It’s an ongoing process,” Mitchell said, “but we’re making strides.” 

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Mitchell is a qualified talent, for sure, and a unique person. One dead giveaway: Mitchell admitted he’d be open to name, image and likeness possibilities “if it’s something positive to the image I’m trying to portray.” 

Mitchell loves the NBA but isn’t trying to pattern his game after anyone in particular. “I’m trying to pave my own path. No two people are the same,” he said.

“Honestly, I kind of felt like I paved my own way when I was growing up in Pittsburgh,” Mitchell said. “There weren’t many people from Pittsburgh you could say made it out of whatever it may be. But I was at Pitt basketball games a lot. I really love that atmosphere.”

Mitchell certainly took UMass by storm. He was named the league’s rookie of the week five straight weeks to close out the 2019-20 regular season. He broke the school’s freshman record for made field goals in a season with 206. 

Practically all of his sophomore numbers were improvements. He shot 51.9% overall and averaged 7.2 rebounds.  

St. Bonaventure's Osun Osunniyi pressures UMass's Tre Mitchell as he goes to the basket.

Asked how he’d describe his game, Mitchell said, “I’m going to go with versatility. I can pretty much do whatever you need me to do. Over my time here, I’ve developed in an amazing way. I bring it every day. I push myself every single day. And I’m starting to do some things I didn’t know I was capable of.”

Mitchell, ranked among the top-five athletes in the transfer portal by the recruiting services, just felt something clicked with Beard and UT. Not long after committing to Texas and joining the Horns, Mitchell lost 12 pounds over four weeks and now has a 38-inch vertical.

At UMass, Mitchell was expected to carry the team. But at Texas, he can blend in on a roster full of older transfers with loads of scoring potential. It’s not all on his shoulders.

“It wasn’t really always about being a star for me,” Mitchell said. “I loved my time at UMass and I wouldn’t change it for the world, because I learned so many things while I was there. But coming here, and being surrounded by other guys that are called stars, there’s just another level to practice every single day. 

“You have to bring it every single day, or you’re going to get exposed,” he said matter-of-factly. “It’s been a pleasure for me, honestly.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.