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October 25, 2014
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Sports

Senior forward leads with quiet confidence

  Alexis Forde

Senior forward Frank Mitchell will bid farewell to the men’s basketball team in about two weeks, but not without leaving an historic mark on the program.

In just three seasons with the Bombers, “Stacks,” as his teammates regularly call him, started 72 games and became one of 24 1,000-point scorers in the college’s history.

Mitchell’s athletic career began as a youngster when he played Little League Baseball and church league basketball. At 12 years old, Mitchell prevailed in basketball, considering it his primary sport. Around this time, he began playing in the competitive Amateur Athletic Union, better known as AAU.

“With the basketball progression, I just got more and more competitive, as I started to like it more,” Mitchell said.

The Hillsborough, N.J., native’s game thrived with strong coaching along the way. During his time with the AAU team, the New Jersey Tornadoes, Mitchell played under the nationally renowned head coach Kevin Boyle, who has coached four current NBA players.

Mitchell’s father, Frank Mitchell Sr., believes Boyle was one of Mitchell’s most influential coaches.

“He was one of the most passionate coaches I ever saw,” Mitchell Sr. said. “He really stressed the importance of playing with a high energy, not backing down, being aggressive. These teams that were coached by him always out-performed and exceeded expectations.”

Mitchell calls his parents his biggest supporters, seeing them in attendance at about 90 percent of his games from childhood and throughout college.

“With AAU and traveling and high school, there was no way really for me to get there unless they were invested,” Mitchell said.

During his junior and senior seasons at Hillsborough High School, Mitchell was selected as an all-conference and all-county player. He became an all-area honoree his senior year after leading his team to the New Jersey Group Four semifinals.

“I tried to add a new skill every year, and that’s how I could kind of tell I got better, not so much stats, because things change every year,” Mitchell said.

While his play in high school caught the attention of college coaches, Mitchell received plenty of Division I exposure while playing with the New Jersey Amateur Basketball Club in AAU Basketball all the way through his high school career. After playing against top competition with teammates like Frantz Massenat and Kazembe Abif of Drexel University, Steve Rennard of University of Pennsylvania and Markese Tucker of Saint Peter’s University, Mitchell said he was ready to play at the college level.

“We played such good competition that it gave me no choice but to step up my game and test myself against Division I players,” he said.

Despite interest from several Ivy League schools and high interest in Ithaca College, Mitchell chose to walk on at Rutgers University and play for former head coach Mike Rice.

However, Rice received national criticism after a video of him shoving and throwing balls at players surfaced in March 2013. He was fired last year along with Rutgers’ athletic director Tim Pernetti. When the video was released, Mitchell was surprised about the media perception.

“I was kind of shocked at how it blew up,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t really think much of it because it was my first year, and I wasn’t sure how things are normally run.”

Once Mitchell decided Division I was not in his future after his freshman year, he knew he wanted to transfer to a college where he could validate his improvement and work toward his basketball skills.

“With the rigorous schedule and kind of time commitment, I didn’t feel it was worth it with the amount of playing time I got,” Mitchell said. “I missed playing, having a significant impact on the team and a serious role like I did in high school.”

Bombers’ head coach Jim Mullins said he welcomed Mitchell with open arms.

“I was thrilled,” Mullins said. “He was a top recruit for us the year before.”

Mitchell said the connection was instant, and he was one of the leading scorers for the Bombers. The squad captured two straight Empire 8 Championships and made a run to the NCAA Sweet 16 his junior season.

“[These tournament games] were probably the best Division III games possible in terms of the atmosphere, sold out days before and the quality of play,” Mitchell said. “It was unbelievable to be a part of that.”

Mitchell was ready to lead the Bombers back to the NCAA tournament in the beginning of his senior season alongside his co-captains seniors Chris Jordan and Tom Sweeney. Though a 6–14season thus far was not on Mitchell’s agenda, the captains have continued to keep the team unified and working hard.

“In terms of the program, it’s not a lost year,” he said. “Going through a season is never as good or bad as the record is. It’s really about playing with your guys and enjoying the game.”

Mitchell rarely makes his emotions visible, but the senior forward always lets his outstanding playing skills and style make the biggest impact. Sophomore Guard Joey Ross, one of Mitchell’s closest friends on and off the court, admires his teammate’s leadership style.

“He doesn’t say too much, but when he does have something to say, it’s usually very insightful,” Ross said. “He leads just by the way he plays. He gives it his all in games and guys just want to win for him.”

As Mitchell approaches graduation in May, his sights are set on continuing his basketball career through coaching. Mitchell Sr. said he is making the right choice.

“All of the exposure he’s received, the games, the practices he’s been to, I think he knows a lot about it,” Mitchell Sr. said. “As long as he continues to have that as a goal and is willing to work at it, I’m 100 percent behind him.”