Posted On: 06/8/18 2:12 PM
The growth of Ray Mitchell in the last 15 months took him from the junior varsity at Blaine to a division one scholarship offer as a 6-foot-4 wing. How? Ray joins me today to walk Minnesota through his journey.
In March of 2017 Prep Hoops held a small event at Augsburg called the Stock Up Showcase. It was just before the 2017 State Tournament and included several players that seemed like they just wanted to get another good run as well as some coaching from some new people before April hit. At this event I remember meeting Rayquawndis Mitchell which is of course Ray Mitchell for short.
That day I remember thinking that this young player from Blaine seemed to have some agility, good length, works hard, and he should be a nice contributor for Blaine as a senior. Add in that he was thanking every adult and teammate in the building as he left and the character piece seemed there as well.
In doing the write up for the Stock Up Showcase I was surprised to see that Ray had only played in five varsity games as a junior meaning he spent much of his 16-17 competing on junior varsity. “For sure this young man was going to play some varsity basketball as a senior” was the lasting thought.
Fast forward to the 17U season of 2017. Mitchell played with one of the Minnesota Select teams that didn’t compete in the NY2LA/SPTS leagues and then he joined Grassroots Sizzle at the end of the summer. Ray did some good things for Select but something seemed to be missing. However, out in Las Vegas playing Grassroots something about the way Mitchell was competing caught my eye.
Mitchell was so determined to find a way to play at a high level that he joined up with Sizzle at the 11th hour and found himself some minutes by competing hard defensively. Leaving the Fab 48 in Vegas the next thought was “Ray is going to get some minutes at Blaine next year, he tries too hard not to”.
Move ahead another eight weeks to the Prep Hoops top 250 Expo that was held in Minneapolis at the end of September (the headshot above is Ray at the Expo just over eight months ago). There was this 6-foot-4 wing using dribble separation skills to get into space scoring regularly. That player was showing range on his jumper and confident handles against his man. This player was talking to his teammates with encouragement and leading verbally on the defensive end. The player was finishing at the rim and putting in a load of effort, at an Expo!
While standing on the baseline I thought “Who is this guy? He looks like a nice prospect!”
I would have loved to see my face when I looked down at the roster and saw Ray’s name. The appearance of surprise would have been clear because what I saw on that September day was not the player I viewed just a few months earlier. A lot of work had been put in and confidence was earned. That’s when the tweet below was produced.
Really enjoying watching the skilled improvements of 6-4 Blaine wing RayQuawndis Mitchell. Always plays hard, getting better!
— Ryan James (@RyanJamesMN) September 23, 2017
As well as Mitchell played that day at the Expo I never expected what happened next. Nobody did, outside of likely Ray and his mother. Instead of becoming a nice player to go with Sam Browne, Byron Binum, Jason Kaul, and others, Mitchell continued to work hard and became the Blaine go-to guy. When Northstar Hoops Report spoke with Ray at the end of November to check how his progress was going (for an article) he mentioned that five division one schools were showing interest.
I looked at his list of schools and thought “I don’t know about that, he would be really good at a D3 or NAIA school” and went on with my day. Meanwhile, Ray kept working to meet his goals. He opened his senior year scoring 27 against Cambridge, then 25 against Coon Rapids, and 24 at Andover.
“Can he sustain this? Wow”.
29 against top 5 Park Center, 23 against Coon Rapids, 24 against Elk River’s always tough defense, and 24 against top ten Champlin Park.
“Is there another level Ray can reach?”
Oh yeah. A career high 37 against Totino-Grace with a 30 spot to follow against Robbinsdale Armstrong and 28 against Anoka in the playoffs.
All of a sudden it’s March and Ray has his team playing for the section championship and is a 20 point per game scorer. Then a D2 offer came in from Washburn followed by Sioux Falls hoping they can get Ray on campus this month.
Could they? Is Ray a D2 player now? He became more than that. Mitchell didn’t take his visit to Sioux Falls this week because he was offered a scholarship by Idaho (who just had a guard leave the team). The Vandals saw Ray play with the Twin Cities Pirates earlier in the spring and this week Ray is taking a visit to the school.
Wow. How did this happen?
Ray Mitchell joined me yesterday to talk about his journey from the junior varsity in March of 2017 to taking an official visit to D1 Idaho in June of 2018.
“The summer of my sophomore year was the most important part of my journey and reason being because I had people who told me to give up and that I wouldn’t even get offers to play in college let alone division one,” Mitchell said. “So that whole summer I worked out about 2-3 times a day preparing my self for my junior year!”
Mitchell had improved a lot but still needed to time to learn.
“I went into my junior thinking that I could be really be productive this time and help my team out in impacting ways,” Ray explained. “I played the first couple of games but after contemplating on playing time I decided to go down to junior varsity so I could train and develop.”
Mitchell had a nice JV season as a junior but he wanted to be an impact guy as a senior so he took his workout approach to a more demanding level.
“Last summer was my best summer so far. I did everything anyone could think of to get better. I’d wake up at 9 am go to the hill to run sprints, do jumps etc until 11am,” Ray said. “I would take an hour break eat then go to the gym to train 1pm-3pm, eat, then do a sand workout, eat, then go the gym again.
“I made sure when my time came that I was ready for everything. If I had to play the whole game my senior year I wouldn’t get tired.
“If we need one more free throw, dunk, layup, floater, three pointer, anything, I wasn’t tired. I just had a lot of things to prove and I’m not done yet.”
No he’s not. Mitchell will visit Idaho soon and if all is right you can expect Mitchell to commit and sign with the school. But things don’t stop there. Now Ray has to prove that he belongs at the division one level which will require even more hard work and dedication.
“I still have big hoop dreams like the next guy,” Mitchell said. “I just wanted to show people why I should be doing this or why i should be doing that. God is the best at timing, and my time is now!”