Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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It will be a two-horse race between Rutgers and Seton Hall for the services of Jonathan Mitchell, a 6-foot-7 former Mr. Basketball in New York State who is transferring from Florida.
“It’s really those two,” Herb Mitchell, Jonathan’s uncle, said Friday. “We’re going into it with our eyes open and we’re taking it from there.”
After Herb flies down to pick Jonathan up in Gainesville this week, the two will drive North to New York in time to visit Seton Hall beginning May 2. The Rutgers visit has yet to be finalized, although the Scarlet Knights have offered Mitchell a scholarship.
Herb left a message Friday morning for St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts telling him that Jonathan was no longer considering the Red Storm.
“Jon called me (Thursday) night to talk and he just said, ‘I’m not really feeling St. John’s,'” Herb said Friday. “There’s some things going on with the coaching situation and the uncertainty of whether Coach Roberts is going to be there or not. (Jonathan’s) got to get it right, and if he makes that decision to go there and Coach Roberts is not there, he’s sitting out a year and then he’s back to square one again.”
Roberts was supposed to be given an extension on his current contract, but on Thursday St. John’s AD Chris Monasch said, “We’re still working on all those details.”
Herb added that the attrition rate at St. John’s — Larry Wright and Mike Cavataio recently announced their plans to transfer, bringing to 10 the total number of players who have departed under Roberts — factored into Jonathan’s decision.
“You read the articles, the number of people who have left the program,” Herb said. “In Jonathan’s situation, he realized he would just be doing a visit and he doesn’t want to waste anybody’s time.”
That leaves Seton Hall and Rutgers to duke it out for the services of Mitchell, the all-time leading scorer in Mount Vernon High history, a rich tradition that includes Chicago Bulls guard Ben Gordon.
The late signing period begins May 21 and Mitchell will have to sit out the 2008-09 season wherever he ends up.
He has ties to both New Jersey schools. Mitchell teamed with Rutgers freshman guard Mike Coburn at Mount Vernon, and he played on the Riverside Church AAU team for current Seton Hall assistant Derm Player.When Mitchell visits Seton Hall, he will be joined by Melvyn “Big O” Oliver, a 6-11, 340-pound center from Mississippi Elite Christian Academy, who made an oral commitment to Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez earlier this week.
Mitchell is a versatile small forward who possesses an inside-out game with the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, while rebounding well and finishing around the basket. At Florida, Mitchell had trouble finding a role and gaining minutes. He averaged 1.4 points as a freshman and 3.1 points and 1.8 rebounds off the bench as a sophomore. His best performance came in a Dec. 29 victory over Temple when he had 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting and added four rebounds and an assist.
He initially chose Florida over Marquette, Virginia and Miami and owns a national championship ring from Florida’s first of back-to-back titles in 2006.
Herb said his nephew would have something to prove wherever he ended up.
“He’s got a chip on his shoulder right now,” Herb said. “He’s got a lot to prove.”
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.