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Chris Mitchell wanted to make sure Bexley boys basketball coach Todd Phillips knew who he was despite being a seventh-grader.
In his second season leading the Lions, Phillips would watch various middle-school contests only to find a tap on his shoulder afterward. It would be Mitchell, wanting to learn what skills he needed to hone to prepare for varsity basketball.
That persistence paid off as Mitchell is now a senior leader who makes plays from any position on the court.
“Chris is a gym rat,” said Phillips, who is in his seventh season. “When he was a young kid, he would come into our gym sometimes to watch practice when he was in the sixth, seventh grade.
“I remember him as a little kid coming up and asking me questions if we would go down to watch a seventh-grade game. He was asking me what he needed to work on. He’s always been a tireless worker, and that coupled with his body transformation has made the difference this year in what he’s trying to do.”
Through 14 games, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Mitchell was averaging 14.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists while leading in deflections (2.3 per game) and steals (1.9). An Ashland signee, he was 25-for-67 on 3-pointers (37.3 percent) and 81-for-165 from the field (49.1 percent).
Mitchell admitted he might have pestered Phillips, but it was all part of his plan to come to high school ready to play.
“I would be pulling on his coattails just enough to get his attention,” Mitchell said. “As a seventh-grader, he was a new coach, and I was trying to make a good impression before I was even in high school so when I got there it might be a little easier.
“I admit I might have been a little bit of a nuisance, but it was more of a curiosity. I wanted to prep for and be ready for what would come. I honestly enjoyed being around the older guys and seeing how hard they were going. I would see what they were doing and compare that to what I was doing and what I needed to do so I could do even more when I got there.”
Mitchell is in his third season as a starter. He was a small forward as a sophomore and now plays anywhere from point guard to center.
“We ask Chris to do a lot,” said Phillips, whose team was 9-5 overall and 5-4 in the MSL-Ohio Division after defeating Wellington 54-35 on Jan. 25. “He’s kind of a 3 (small forward) or a 4 (power forward), but we also have things we do with him on the perimeter and we do things with him inside.
“We put a lot on his plate but he’s a competitor, and he has come a long way since he started as a sophomore. The easy answer (to why) is that his whole body has changed so much because he’s probably four inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than when he was a sophomore. He’s a good leaper, and he’s a legit 6-5 and 200 pounds. He’s put together.”
Mitchell still sees himself playing on the perimeter but knows his role mostly deals with inside play. He relishes the ability to play all the positions on the floor.
“I would like to call myself a point guard,” he said. “That’s where I was before puberty hit, and then I got bigger.
“My sophomore year when I played the 3, I couldn’t play the guard but I also couldn’t play the big. I had to learn what I was capable of doing. Asking questions with the guards and learning with the bigs, I got to learn each position from 1 (point guard) to 5 (center). Now it depends on where I’m at. There was a huge learning curve."
Mitchell scored just eight points against Wellington, but the only numbers concerning him are wins and losses.
“I’m detail-oriented, but the numbers give me stress,” Mitchell said. “After I see the averages, I used to feel like I had to go out and do this and put up that. But now I know that my coaches just want me to play and ignore all of that thinking and just ignore my numbers. That takes all of the stress off, and everything just comes naturally.
“I usually don’t pay attention to the numbers. My family likes to keep track of them. I never care for them. I know the score when we win; I just don’t know what numbers I had during the game. I just know that whatever I did meant we were able to win.”
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Boys Basketball: Mitchell never out of position for Bexley