With the 2020-21 season long since in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We’ll run through the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, and today we move along to the first of the two freshmen who elected to stick with Marquette after Shaka Smart took over........
Freshman - #4 - Guard - 6’2” - 190 pounds - Reading, Pennsylvania
Stevie Mitchell Traditional Stats
Stevie Mitchell Fancy Stats
It’s worth acknowledging, as I’m sure you’ve read in every single article previewing this season’s Marquette team, that not a single person (or computer in this case) can accurately predict what this team looks like. A new coach and ONLY three returning players makes this season still completely up in the air for how the team might look.
That being said, before I really gush about what Mitchell might possibly offer this team in the long run, let’s temper our expectations into what he can offer this team right now. T-Rank predicts Mitchell averaging 4 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in about 14 minutes per game. This makes a lot of sense seeing as he is probably behind Greg Elliott (and Darryl Morsell maybe???) and competing with Kam Jones and (to some extent) Emarion Ellis for minutes at the point guard spot. We’ve got a lot of guards and only so many minutes to go around.
He’s also been in a walking boot, as I’ve recently seen on campus, and we haven’t been able to see him scrimmage with the team yet as he was wearing the boot at the recent season ticket holder open practice. But he’s a player that, when healthy, can score at all three levels whenever he wants. He shot 55% from the field during his senior year and has shown the ability get to the hoop with relative ease. He was the primary ball handler for his high school team, but his off-ball movement and catch and shoot should translate well if he’s asked to play with someone else running the point.
If he’s asked to play on-ball, Mitchell has a lot to offer. He can get to the hoop off the dribble and find his teammates with creative passes. If he’s given the space and the go-ahead by Smart, expect him to drive to showcase his offensive talent and get himself in the lane. Hopefully, his ability to get to the hoop will translate to college ball, and if it does expect Mitchell to gobble up some of the available point guard minutes.
Why You Should Get Excited
Mitchell is an offensively gifted player, he can dribble, shoot, and pass; three skills that have proven to be important for a basketball player. His high school highlights showcase an absolutely ridiculous set of dribble moves that I can only dream of doing by myself in a gym without a defender. He routinely was able to make space for himself in the midrange, or get his opponents off balance enough to take it straight to the hoop. He could create his own shot at will and was also instrumental in opening up space for his teammates through these meandering drives.
The tape that’s floating around out there also showcases a high-level awareness of the court. He was able to thread passes through tight windows right where they needed to be. While he generally was a shoot-first point guard, his passing ability was a huge boost to his team. If Mitchell is able to find his feet right away with the speed and tenacity of the college game, he has a TON of offensive tools to work with and should be good for about 1.2 highlight plays per game, give or take an alley-oop to the Marquette bigs.
As I mentioned before, he’s a guy with a lot of energy that should bring a really fun atmosphere with him into the locker room. Hopefully, we are able to get a glimpse of this as fans, but I’m as excited as anybody to have this guy on campus with me.
Anytime we talk about a freshman player, everything said above has to be taken with a grain of salt. It could take time to adjust and some of these skills might not translate to the next level as well as anyone hopes. He’s already been bitten by injury in his short time at Marquette so far, so who knows what might happen there. All that, plus the general team uncertainty leaves Mitchell in an interesting predicament where he could end up not getting many minutes and falling behind any number of the guards in the depth chart depending on how Shaka Smart wants to clarify his positions.
As you may have noticed thus far in the article, Mitchell’s defense has not been mentioned once. There is very little tape on what Mitchell does defensively, and even with his average of 2.8 steals per game as a senior, Mitchell is more or less an unknown on defense. At 6’2”, he doesn’t offer a lot of size to be able to defend players outside of the point guard or shooting guard spots. His potential defensive downsides could be masked by Darryl Morsell’s prolific defense, but Mitchell might be too much of a liability on that end of the court to pick up big minutes in Big East play. It’s also important to remember that he was a Wojo recruit before Smart kept him in the fold. Steve Wojciechowski didn’t really have an aptitude for recruiting guards with naturally good defense, need I mention a man by the name of Ja Morant and his crimes against the Golden Eagles.
I don’t want to end on that note so here’s to hoping that we get more than a couple of highlight reels out of a guy nicknamed ‘Stu’, apparently. I’ll let you decide for yourself if that’s a pitfall but I put it in this section for a reason.
If you wanted to just measure success level for a specific player based on how many minutes they were earning on the court from game to game as the season went on, I think you could probably classify Stevie Mitchell’s first season in Milwaukee as something of a disappointment. Between the start of the season and the end of the Wisconsin game on December 4th, Mitchell played at least 12 minutes in all but one game as the Golden Eagles went 7-2 to start the year. That’s a per-game average of 16.1 minutes a night!
After that? Mitchell broke 10 minutes in a game on just 10 occasions in 23 games, and just eight times in the 19 game Big East regular season schedule. On average the rest of the way? 8.7 minutes a night. It wouldn’t be weird or out of place to call that reduction in minutes as the season went along to be something of a disappointment.
And yet, I’m probably more enthused about Stevie Mitchell’s future in blue and gold than I was last October.
And, perhaps most interestingly, I’m high on Mitchell not because of any potential that we wrote about in his preview, but instead because of the question marks that we raised in the Pitfalls section. As the season went along, Mitchell turned himself into a whirling dervish of defensive effort and intensity. It didn’t turn into a lot of minutes, but he was ready when his name was called, and he threw himself — sometimes literally — into his assignment on the floor: Get stops, make hustle plays, provide energy, give Darryl Morsell and Tyler Kolek some time on the bench to catch their breath.
He played in less than 27% of Marquette’s minutes this season, so Mitchell won’t qualify for the national rankings on KenPom.com. However, his season long steal rate of 3.6% would have been good enough for a top 85 ranking if he did qualify. That’s really good, best by a Marquette player since Jajuan Johnson in 2017 good. That’s not a case of doing work early in the year and then coasting to a good finish, either. Mitchell’s steal rate in Marquette’s 19 Big East games — and he did play in all of them, as he played in every game this year — was an eye-popping 5.3%. In just 21% of possible minutes, so take it with a little grain of salt, but I think we have to note that Cornell’s Chris Manon was #1 in the country in steal rate this season at 5.39%.
We’re praising his defense here, which is important because that’s how he’s going to get minutes for Shaka Smart in the future, and sure, he’s got things to work on, because he’s definitely fouling way too much. But his offense was totally fine! While he wasn’t gunning for his shot as much as David Joplin was — 16 fewer attempts in 123 more minutes played — Mitchell either took what defenses were giving him or picked his spots incredibly well. He shot 52% inside the arc, and a completely fine 35% from long range. 4-for-10 on threes in Big East play is nothing to sneeze at either, almost to the point of elbowing someone in the ribs and saying “hey, maybe the kid should shoot it more.”
I think the biggest thing to take away from Mitchell’s first season of college hoops is that Shaka Smart and his staff have to find ways to get more out of the Pennsylvania native going forward. I don’t know if that’s reconstructing the offense, or reorienting the rotation, or what can be done, but it’s clear that Mitchell can have a bigger impact on Marquette hoops going forward.
Look, the game sucked big time, but we can’t ignore that Stevie Mitchell was awesome in Marquette’s visit to DePaul in the final week of the regular season. In his longest stretch of playing time since New Year’s Day, Mitchell shot 5-for-7 from the floor, including knocking in two of his three long range attempts to get to a conference play high 12 points, and he added two rebounds, an assist, and three steals. I’m giving credit to Mitchell playing big in a spot where Marquette needed a spark here. If you wanted to say his best game was in the season opener where he scored a season high 14 points, grabbed a season high four rebounds, and dished a season high four assists, I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong. Feels mean to say that his best game was the first game of the year, though. Then again, Marquette did need pretty much every part of what Mitchell did there as it only turned into an 11 point game at the final horn.
So how do we grade a season that I thought was pretty good but maybe fell a bit short of where we thought things could go in the preseason, at least numerically speaking? That’s kind of a hard needle to thread. Okay, well, we know and can all agree that Stevie Mitchell wasn’t lighting the world on fire this season. That gives us a bit of a cap to what his grade can be. Let’s call it a 7. We had concerns about his ability to defend at the high major level partly because of his size, partly because he was a freshman, but it was clear that he could hop off the bench and contribute to the team on that end for sure. His offense was fine, he just didn’t get much of a chance/didn’t try to actually showcase it, which is also fine. Mitchell played his part and did what the coaches asked and/or needed him to do, and did a little bit better than we thought he might. That sounds like a 7.