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Mitchell named boys basketball Player of the Year
Cibola junior guard Jordan Mitchell didn't need to score to be a presence on the court.
If he wasn't making baskets, he'd be hauling in rebounds, dishing out assists or grabbing up steals.
Mitchell was named the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club 2011-2012 Boys Basketball Player of the Year after leading the Raiders past the first round of the state tournament while averaging over 18 points, 5.5 assists, nearly six rebounds and almost two steals a game.
“This year, he had a much better court sense,” Cibola coach Tim Keller said. “He knew where the kids were supposed to be on offense. He realized that when the defense closes in on him, he had different options other than just taking the ball to the basket and put everything on his own shoulders.”
It became a maturing process — a talented sophomore growing to become even more effective. Sure, he still had monster scoring games — like 32 against Lake Havasu, 31 against Gila Ridge and Parker and 28 in a three-point win over Kofa late in the season.
But perhaps more important to the Raiders' success, there were 19 games this season that Mitchell had five or more assists and 15 games he had five or more rebounds.
He put up cones and practiced dribbling while looking up to improve his court vision and worked on improving his outside and midrange shot.
“Sophomore year, I didn't see the floor well and I couldn't shoot the three or the midrange shot that well but I worked on it over the summer and got better at shooting the three and seeing the floor and making better passes,” he said.
As his reputation continued to grow with every impressive game he had as a sophomore and into his junior year, the scouting report on the Raiders seemed to clearly show up by how the other team defended them. Pack in the inside and prevent Mitchell from driving.
With an improved jump shot and ability to find an open teammate, Mitchell and his fellow Raiders enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship.
“I think everybody around made Jordan better, and I think Jordan made everyone else better. Because everybody else was better, they couldn't single out Jordan and because Jordan was as good as he is, they had to single him out. So it was sort of a paradox,” Keller said.
It hasn't only been natural talent and hours spent on the court that have molded Mitchell into the best player in the area. The junior takes full advantage of studying game film to get an outside perspective of not only his plays, but the strategy of their opponents.
“He's one of the few kids that will sit down and actually watch tape and he'll study his opponents and study what he does wrong. He understands that aspect of the game,” Keller said.
The 6-foot-1 Mitchell has come a long way in his basketball journey. He admits as a fourth- and fifth-grader, “I couldn't make a layup to save my life.” As a freshman, he stuck around after the JV season was over to practice with the varsity in preparation for the state tournament — which was rewarded with him being able to suit up and stay on the bench during the Raiders' state loss. The next season, Mitchell was starting as a sophomore.
As a junior, he has blossomed into an all-around player — possessing the ability to hurt the other team in every facet of the game.
“You could see that development coming into this season. You could tell he had all the tools he already had about going to the basket but he didn't need to do that as much anymore. He saw the open guys on the outside. He saw the big guys down low when he got double-teamed going to the basket,” Keller said.
Now he will enter his final season with an even bigger bulls-eye on his back. He will be a senior for the Raiders — the top player from the team with the best record in the area. For a player like Mitchell, there isn't time to enjoy a great junior year that ended in the state tournament. He isn't content with a season in which he routinely flirted with triple-doubles despite getting constant attention from opposing defenses — because, well, there's work to do.
“You can always improve on every part of your game.”