By Noah Allison–
With Louisville’s 77-57 victory over the Saint Louis Billikens on Saturday the Cards have improved to 5-0 on the season.
With a roster that depends on 12 first or second year players Rick Pitino is getting contribution from multiple players at every position. Early on, the sound play of back up guard Donovan Mitchell is showing there is stability and talent in this year’s Louisville backcourt.
As the third guard in the rotation Mitchell has averaged 16.6 minutes per game. He is shooting at .50 percent from the field and has made 11 of his 12 free throw attempts. He also has six assists, six steals and 20 total rebounds. The true freshman from Greenwich Connecticut isn’t worried about stuffing the stats or scoring, he just wants to contribute.
“I’m focusing more on defensive things. Rebounding and getting deflections, that’s big for me because the offensive game will come off of the defense and that’s one thing that I’ve learned especially from being here. Your offense is your defense,” Mitchell said.
Just five games into his career Mitchell, like most of his teammates, is still learning the nuances of head coach Rick Pitino’s system.
“I feel a little bit more comfortable. More confident in doing the little things that coach wants me to do,” Mitchell said. “Being in the passing lanes and being more active on the defensive glass. In high school I was pretty active on the defensive glass but here I’ve been watching a lot of Terry Rozier rebounding highlights and just about being able to get to the open spot and fighting for the rebound. You can’t just sit around and watching the bigs do it. You have to help the bigs out because they help us out a lot.”
Mitchell is one of Louisville’s highest touted recruits in recent memory. He was ranked number 17 nationally by Scout.com and was the number two shooting guard. He was ranked 31’st by Rivals.com, 34th by 247Sports.com and 43rd in the ESPN 100. Despite his prowess coming out of high school his humility is key in his improvement.
“I just look to be that defensive spark off the bench. Come in and makes plays especially defensively. When I have deflections they should be steals. Little things that keep the pace up, we don’t want a drop off when I come into the game. That’s my goal, to keep the pace up,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell plays behind starting guards, sophomore Quentin Snider and senior Trey Lewis. Both of who are bringing Mitchell up to speed.
“Trey has helped me out a lot with shooting. When I first got here I didn’t have a lot of elevation on my shot, not a lot of arc. He and the coaches have helped me with some drills and I think my shooting has improved tremendously.”
“Q has always been the guy that if I make a mistake he’s in my ear saying ‘don’t worry about it, move to the next play.’ If Coach P is yelling at me he helps me move on to the next play. Both he and Trey do that. Its great to have that, especially from the two starting guards,” Mitchell said.
Snider knows that you can’t win with just two guards.
“He’s very important, we are going to need him. When Trey and I get tired we are going to need him to step up coming off the bench,” Snider said.
Although it is just five games into the season this Louisville backcourt is showing speed, skill and versatility. And with as talented a player as Mitchell is, the backcourt as a whole looks to be in good form moving forward.
“I think we are a very dynamic backcourt, we are very deep,” Mitchell said. “Just to have one guy come out and the next guy is in there, it’s just an amazing feeling to have that.”