By Dalton Ray–
Sophomores Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel have big shoes to fill when replacing Trey Lewis and Damion Lee. Last season, the graduate transfers totaled 828 points, 223 rebounds, 130 assists, 78 steals, 107 3-pointers and an unmeasurable amount of leadership.
Mitchell and Adel both got action last season. Mitchell played 591 minutes (19 per game), placing him fifth and leading U of L freshmen. Adel logged 267 minutes and sat out nine games with an injury. Mitchell and Adel will be mixed into the offense much more in 2016-2017, and are leaned on the carry the offense. Lee established himself as the go-to guy last year when times got tough. If Mitchell and Adel can’t take on that role this year, U of L could be in trouble.
Adel says replacing Lee is daunting, but has faith that his teammates will make it easier.
“It’s a big role to fill, but we have so many guys that have improved over the summer. I really don’t have to think about taking that whole role by myself. With VJ (King) coming in ready to play, Donovan and Q both getting better and the returning players pitching in, it’s not just me taking the responsibility. We have such a great team here, there’s no big weight on just me.”
Mitchell said that the leadership he learned from Lee and Lewis is one of the best things he gained from the seniors.
“Having their leadership last year really helped us. We came in and listened to what they had to say and watched the way they led. Now we’re out here working our butts off because of them. They taught us to never take anything for granted,” Mitchell said.
When players are transitioning from bench players to starters, experts look at “per 40 minutes” stats to gauge their potential impact. This stats simply tells, based on their averages, what said-player would average if they logged a full game.
Mitchell averaged 7.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.8 steals a game. His per 40 minutes stat line is 15.5 points, seven rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.7 steals a game.
Adel averaged four points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists and 0.3 steals a game. His per 40 minutes stat line is 13.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.9 steals a game.
While neither player will average 40 minutes a game, they expect 27 to 33 minutes per contest. Of course, the system will change a little, the flow of the team will be slightly altered and so on, but these aren’t unreachable numbers for Mitchell and Adel.
Offensively, Mitchell and Adel probably won’t be able to match the assist numbers and 3-pointers Lee and Lewis put up, but Mitchell and Adel can easily go stride for stride in total points. Both Mitchell and Adel are more attacking players, which means they’ll go to the basket more and rely less on shots from distance.
Getting to the basketball also means more free throw opportunities. Mitchell knocked down 75 percent of his shots at the line last season and Adel hit 74 percent.
While the duo may have a little trouble replicating the offense, Mitchell and Adel are upgrades at defense.
Starting with rebounding, Mitchell and Adel will likely exceed the mark of 223 rebounds. Mitchell is perhaps the best rebounding guard Rick Pitino has coached at U of L.
A more explosive player, Mitchell will be able to stay on the hip of nearly any player he comes across. Last season, Lewis had only seven more steals than Mitchell, despite playing 268 more minutes.
Adel is comparable in size to Lee, but has a bit more range. At 6-foot-7, Adel is a wirey wing that is stronger than his frames shows. Adel is a better on-ball defender than Lee.
Mitchell and Adel will be matched-up against some of the toughest players Louisville will face. Mitchell and Adel will go heads up will players such as Grayson Allen, Jason Tatum, Malik Monk, Jaron Blossomgame and James Blackmon Jr.
Louisville fans aren’t the only one expecting a big year out of the sophomore duo. NBA scouts are starting look at both. After an impressive performance at the Adidas Nations, their draft stocks are starting to rise.
Sports Illustrated college basketball writer Luke Winn attended the summer camp.
“Watching (Mitchell and Adel) play together in the context of a lot of established college players, you would not think that these were guys who didn’t start for a team last year. I think you could tell someone who hasn’t seen them before that they were veteran starters on an ACC team,” Winn said.
In the first bit of game action together of 2016-2017, Mitchell and Adel combined for 27 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal