Akil Mitchell can finish with the best of them. - Grant Halverson
After Assane Sene went down with an injury, Akil Mitchell moved into the starting lineup and played nearly 30 minutes per game, averaging about 5 points and 5 boards. More importantly, he was a steady presence in the middle, and helped negate the loss of Sene.
Projected to be the starting center for the 2012-2013 Hoos is 6'8" 234 pound junior Akil Mitchell. Mitchell started the final 15 games of the season last year, after Assane Sene's injury. All told, on the season, Akil averaged just 4.1 ppg and 4.4 rpg. He shot over 50% from the field and about the same from the FT line. He also averaged about .3 blocks per game and .6 steals. Those numbers were up from his freshman year, when he averaged 2.4 points, 3 rebounds, about .2 blocks and .6 steals.
In 15 games he started, Mitchell averaged nearly 27 minutes of play, and about 5 points and 5 boards. In the games prior to Sene's injury, Mitchell averaged just under 18 minutes, 3 points and 4 rebounds. When you consider the increased playing time, Mitchell was actually less productive as a starter. That may be, in part, due to spending more time on the floor with Mike Scott, who was the focus of the offense and gobbled up a lot of the rebounds.
Mitchell had some good games; In the ACC tournament, Mitchell had 10 points and 12 rebounds in 38 minutes. He also had some stinkers; he played 17 minutes in the Hoos loss to UNC and had just a single rebound and 0 points.
Mitchell's strength is his athleticism. For a guy his size, he is quick and a good leaper. His weakness is his strength. Literally. He simply isn't strong enough to battle inside against a lot of the post men in the ACC. This is why a lot of his better games have come against smaller teams. (See: 9 and 9 against Maryland Eastern Shore, 8 and 5 against Wisconsin-Green Bay in 19 minutes).
Last season, Mitchell found his way onto the court due to his defense. Despite not being a true shot blocker, he is a good interior presence, just because of his length and athleticism. He gets a fair number of steals and deflections because he has good reflexes and long arms.
Offensively, most of his points come on putbacks and in transition. That said, he's shown the ability to step out and hit a 15 footer. He's also shown a little bit of a post game (fast forward to about the 0:58 mark of the highlights from last year's win at Virginia Tech for a look at Akil's post game).
Mitchell is a smart guy, having rung up a 4.0 GPA and being a member of the National Honors Society in High School. That intelligence makes its way onto the basketball court, especially on defense. Mitchell always appears to be in the right place at the right time, which is key in Tony Bennett's pack-line defense.
Word from the Hoos off-season European tour is that Mitchell played very well against the pro teams they faced. Often being matched up against bigger, stronger, older guys, Mitchell averaged 13.4 points and 10 rebounds per game. If he can continue to play like that, it will give the Hoos a reliable post presence to help replace the production lost when Mike Scott moved on. Check out the highlights of the two games (game 1 and game 2) the Hoos played in France to see a lot more Akil Mitchell.