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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Stevie Mitchell’s “want to win” mentality leading to success in new role with Golden Eagles

Photo by Alex DeBuhr
Sophomore guard Stevie Mitchell in Marquette men’s basketball’s 80-77 overtime loss to Wisconsin Dec. 3 at Fiserv Forum.

As Marquette gets back into defense following an offensive basket, sophomore guard Stevie Mitchell lingers alongside the Golden Eagles sideline lined up with head coach Shaka Smart. He grins a little. He is ready to add to the deflections count with a steal or a stop. 

Then the 6-foot-2 guard gets into his defensive stance. He sets his feet, crouches down and slaps the floor. It’s an Energy Generating Behavior. 

“I always say he’s not a pitbull but when he got that puppy love and that nagging puppy face I’m like ‘Okay Stevie, he’s locked into his circle right now,’” assistant coach DeAndre Haynes said.

Being the on-ball defender and defensive anchor that Mitchell is, bodes well with his high energy and positive personality.

“When he’s playing that way, our team is playing at a different level,” Haynes said.

Making a statement such as Mitchell’s level of energy in a given game dictates aspects of the game itself isn’t as preposterous as one might think. 

“If he has it (energy), I feel like we’re going to win every game,” Haynes said. “When he’s not in that place, I feel like we struggle. He’s that important to the team with his smile, his energy, those EGB’s and that leadership that he brings.” 

That’s telling. It also puts into perspective the growth Mitchell has encountered since last season.  

Sticking with Marquette 

Mitchell, a consensus nationally ranked recruit, originally committed to Marquette to play for former head coach Steve Wojciechowski. 

But when Wojciechowski was fired, Mitchell kept with his commitment to the Golden Eagles to play for Smart.

“When I got to talk to Coach Smart and realized how cool of a person he was and how he cared about his players and the culture of the team on and off the court, I thought it was a really cool situation and opportunity I’d be able to join,” Mitchell said. 

Smart called Mitchell a high character and high quality person. 

“You’re talking about a guy who is the salt of the earth,” Smart said after Marquette’s win over Creighton Dec. 16. “First of all, he comes from an unbelievable family. He didn’t know me from Adam when I got the job here.

“But he gave me the chance to get to know him. I say this any chance I get, the last staff deserves unbelievable credit for Stevie Mitchell, Kam Jones and Oso Ighodaro for that matter.”   

Haynes called it a blessing for the staff to inherit a guard and player like Mitchell. 

“We had to develop him but he already had it,” Haynes said. “He had that ‘it’ to him to where he can light up a room with his smile, he can be positive and you don’t have to worry about him having a big ego. He just wants to win.”

Mitchell’s first season in the blue and gold was an up and down affair. In his first game, he scored 14 points against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He would score five or more points in seven of the next 31 games. 

“It was like a different sport from high school really,” Mitchell said. 

He also experienced a role change on the floor. 

“It was definitely hard going from playing the whole game in high school to coming off of the bench in college and not really knowing how much you’re going to play or anything like that,” Mitchell said. “It was definitely a transition.” 

Growing into new role 

The departures of Greg Elliott, Kur Kuath, Justin Lewis and Darryl Morsell opened up three starting positions for the Golden Eagles heading into this season, which caught the eye of Mitchell. 

During the off-season, Mitchell worked on his craft both physically and athletically. 

“I mainly worked on my confidence with shooting, being able to catch and shoot and being ready to shoot,” Mitchell said. “(And) than my physical strength and conditioning to be able to go against older and stronger guys, to be able to battle against them and hold my own to help the team.” 

There was also a point of emphasis put on improving Mitchell’s shot by the coaching staff in hopes of increasing his offensive production after averaging 1.4 points last season.  

“Our thing this summer with him for his development plan was to really work on his handle and him attacking the rim with different finishes,” Haynes said.

Mitchell’s shot is a continuous work in progress but Haynes said he has seen growth in his confidence and the way he attacks the basket. 

“If you look at the way he has been finishing now, we’ve been doing that in practice,” Haynes said. “He’s one of the best cutters we’ve got on the team.” 

But there is more Mitchell can do with the ball, Smart said. 

“When he gets in trouble is when he tries to do too much or predetermines. You can’t do that at this level,” Smart said. “When he keeps its simple, takes open shots, attacks closeouts, gets into the paint on balance and finds teammates that are open, he’s really, really good.” 

Haynes said he has been working with Mitchell on the side on removing hesitation in his shot with shooting drills. 

“We do a lot of drills within our offense to where he doesn’t have time to think about a miss or a make (as) I just fire a lot of basketballs at him,” Haynes said. “If he misses a shot, I have him do a power clap where he claps his hands and he moves onto the next thing.” 

And then there is Mitchell’s growth on defense. 

Mitchell knows what his role is on the teamdefensive anchor. It’s a role that Mitchell is new to after being a 2,000 point scorer in high school. 

His acceptance into this role shows his team-first mentality. 

“At the end of the day, it kind of boils down to just staring in your role and doing what you can do best to help the team win, which is what we all want,” Mitchell said. 

Haynes said what has made Mitchell into a great defensive guard is his want to defend. 

“When you have a player like that, that’s a scary player that people don’t want to play against,” Haynes said. “Because, man, you better go to sleep because he’s going to bring his demons.”

Mitchell has taken over the role that Morsell held last season: defend the opponents best player.

“When he’s lost in the fight and pouring into his teammates with his energy and he’s taking their best offensive perimeter player and saying, ‘No, you’re not getting anything easy’ that’s when he is at his best,” Smart said. 

Mitchell’s performance in Marquette’s win over Seton Hall Dec. 27 is an example of that as he held junior guard Kadary Richmond, one of the best guards in the Big East, to just nine points. 

Studying for opponents and for class

“Stevie’s a different kid,” Haynes said. 

One way Mitchell shows that difference is in the classroom. 

“He’s so hard on himself with academics,” Haynes said. “I tip my hat to his parents for raising him that way.” 

This past semester, Mitchell finished with a 4.0 GPA while balancing both a six class schedule and being a student-athlete. 

“It’s been a thing my whole life that I just enjoy school because it’s another opportunity for me to challenge myself and work on giving my best effort,” Mitchell said.

That mindset carries over onto the hardwood as well, especially in film sessions, Haynes said. 

“He’s so locked into wanting to be great off the floor that it carries over to wanting to be great on the floor,” Haynes said. “He’s trying to figure out ways to get an A on guarding this person, ‘how am I going to stop them?’ and ‘how am I going to get the results that I want by studying film and breaking down this player?’” 

‘Unsung Hero’ 

Being the defensive stopper that he is, Mitchell’s impact on the team is hard to pick up when looking at the box score after a game. 

But his impact doesn’t go unnoticed with Smart. 

“He’s a winning guy. He’s a guy that does a lot of really good things for our team,” Smart said. 

The Reading, Pennsylvania native has started every game this season while averaging 1.2 steals per game. His 3.1 steals percentage in conference only games ranks 11th in the Big East per KenPom. 

Mitchell made his offense known in Marquette’s Big East opener win over Creighton when he stripped the ball away from Bluejays sophomore forward Arthur Kaluma and slammed it home for his first career dunk.

“It’s great to see Stevie have a moment like that,” Smart said after the win. “Because on our team he’s somewhat of an unsung hero. … Stevie’s that guy in the starting lineup that maybe doesn’t get as many shots sometimes or doesn’t play quite as much as those guys in certain games.”

On paper, Mitchell’s role doesn’t come off as flashy as the others in the starting five. But his role serves as a key part to the puzzle of Marquette’s offensive success when looked at analytically. 

As pointed out by Paint Touches, there are 36 different five-man starting lineups that have played at least 200 possessions together this season per Hoop-Explorer. Marquette’s starting five ranks second best in the country in Adjusted Net Rating with a +37.8 point mark. This means the Golden Eagles offense scores nearly 38 points more than the defense allows per 100 possessions.

Mitchell nevertheless is as effective at doing what he does best. 

“Stevie can guard anybody on the floor,” Haynes said. “He just doesn’t back down from anyone. He got a knack for having that toughness tool.” 

And why not? Mitchell has helped Marquette to sit first in the Big East in both turnover margin (+4.7) and assist to turnover ratio (1.6).

Though there is a lot left to unearthabout Mitchell’s remaining time with the Golden Eagles, Haynes said he believes Mitchell can walk out with some hardware. 

“I have big expectations for him,” Haynes said. “Under our team and under this program, Stevie can be an all-conference player when it’s all said and done. He can be an all-defensive team type of player, can be the captain of this team and help Marquette win a couple of championships because of his leadership, passion for the game and want to win.”

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU.

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