Tony Mitchell is rising up. The 6-foot-6 wing from Swainsboro (Ga.) High School is improving by the game this spring.
Playing with the Hoop Planet AAU team and paired with Clemson bound guard Cashmere Wright, Mitchell is rounding out his skill set, picking up interest at a daily clip from college coaches and his confidence is booming, according to his AAU coach Darnell Darby.
"That's a great way to describe him," Darby said. "But it's not cocky confidence like he knows he is good. It's more like he knows he is getting better and can be even better than what he is. He doesn't get caught up in the 'I'm better than you' or this that or the other. That isn't his motivation. You have to really let him know how good he can really be. To him, he's just playing basketball.
"Since last year, every tournament and every game, he's doing stuff that you don't realize he can do. Last year, he was just a dunker. Now he's working on his shot and becoming a shooter. I've seen him come at the rim even after his own missed shot and dunk it home. I'm sitting there on the sidelines thinking, 'Man, this kid can fly.'"
Mitchell played well in Pittsburgh for the Jam Fest, scoring 20 points or more in each of the contests as well as doing double duty as the team's best rebounder. Last week at the King of the South tournament, Mitchell was one of the top performers in Nashville.
"Everyone is asking if they can get involved. The more this kid plays, the more exposure he gets, the more people are going to recruit him. Any major Division I coach that sees him play is going to love him. That's why a lot of people are trying to lock him up early so people aren't trying to get involved. It's not like he is a big national name where people just know who he is."
Those days are drying up. Mitchell is already ranked amongst the top 100 players in the country by Rivals.com. He is slated to make a significant jump in the new rankings coming out on Monday.
Since then, Mitchell has blown up on the recruiting front. The four-star prospect picked up offers from Cincinnati and South Carolina prior to the spring. Alabama offered early in the week. Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi State, UTEP and Clemson are also very much in the picture, Darby said.
"He doesn't get caught up in that at all, not at all. He doesn't get fazed by anything like that. He doesn't care that coaches are coming out to see him. He's small town. More and more schools are coming in and now the calls are coming in, 'Is this kid for real?'
"Here is a funny story. (Georgia assistant coach) Mike Jones is watching us in Nashville (at the King of the South tournament) on Sunday and saw Tony hit eight threes against the Celtics. 2:30 on Monday afternoon, Mike Jones is at Swainsboro High School. That is how Tony's recruitment is blowing up. They want to get into the hunt of things.
"South Carolina was in there first. They have been there since the start. Cincinnati loves him. They've been looking at him since the high school season. Clemson has really made a good push for him because of Cashmere."
Darby said the key to landing Mitchell is getting to know the two people who are the closest to the small town kid – his parents and high school coach Leroy Jordan.
"They are going to want to find a place that is going to get him going as a player and with academics," Darby said. "They don't get caught up in the name. Let's be honest, if they were, then I wouldn't have him on my AAU team. We aren't the biggest named program out there. He's looking for loyalty and who is going to take care of him in college as a player and a student. I've told everyone that wants to recruit him, you want to get to know the kid, his parents and his high school coach Leroy Jordan. It's so simple."
Simple is the best way to put it when it comes to Mitchell's decision. Darby said there is one thing that stands out the most.
"The are real big on loyalty," Darby says, "and that's why I think those four right there (Alabama, Georgia, Cincinnati and South Carolina) are going to be tough to beat. They have sent head coaches out to see him. They've been to the high school. They've been to our games. They really want to recruit him."