Having participated in the NBA D-League's Slam Dunk Contest during the league's Showcase in January, and also having taken home the trophy for the same contest during All-Star Weekend last month, it's safe to say high-flying Mad Ants' forward Tony Mitchell garners quite the reputation as a well known human highlight reel.
But with Luke Harangody sidelined with an injury and unable to lead the way in Fort Wayne, Mitchell has been making an extra effort to become known for more than just throwing down some wowing slams. The young gun has been putting forth a case to make the transition to a bonafide NBADL star. Though he's still managed to average 19.7 points on the season, Mitchell has put up an even more impressive 23.4 points over his last ten contests.
Of course, that same average was not including whatever progress the forward would log in the Mad Ants' Friday night matchup against the Austin Toros. As fate would have it, such a contest proved to be Mitchell's best of the season.
Not only did Mitchell's 47 points in his team's 106-104 triple overtime victory represent a career-high for him, but it also marked an NBADL regular season-high for any individual this year. NBA veteran Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 49 points in a game with the Legends last fall, but his efforts came during a preseason matchup.
Mitchell's efforts were certainly most appreciated by Fort Wayne, who needed every last one of his points to earn the victory in a game that went way past regulation time. The forward further emerged as a hero when he hoisted up a long bomb from deep that banked in the basket to push the game to a remarkable third overtime period. It was then that he and the Mad Ants were able to finally push through and squeeze past the Toros.
Though Mitchell poured in the points on Friday, he didn't exactly do so in the most of efficient manners. He's only shot 38% over this latest ten game stretch, and has only converted on 41% of his attempts on the season. He made 16 of 41 shots on Friday en route to the impressive scoring display.
With Harangody out, the Mad Ants have had to ride Mitchell's offensive flow, for better or for worse. Athleticism aside, the forward has always seemed to represent quite the raw talent. There's no doubt he's a skilled player, but more time to develop is undoubtedly necessary, as his overall game appears rough around the edges.
There's no shot Mitchell is afraid of. He's confident and bold in his shot selection, but for what it's worth, his team seems to trust him. While he may have his team's support and a green light to let the bombs fly, it may also be worth Mitchell's while to cash in on his athleticism and offensive assertiveness by attacking the basket more often. There's no doubt scoring the basketball would come easier to him this way. His physical nature surely could give him the advantage against opposing defenders.
Playing in the NBA D-League is all about living and learning through experience. As it stands, Mitchell has thus far continued to make unbelievable strides from where he began. With the Mad Ants looking ahead to the postseason, there's no doubt he'll be looked upon as a primary offensive option, and will to have all the more opportunities to continue blending his skills together perfectly to create the perfect balance.
His explosive high-scoring performance against Austin simply suggests he has the potential to do so.