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Cibola senior racks up assists as Boys Basketball Player of the Year
Isaac Coronado, Kofa
Steven Loucks, Cibola
Carter Rodriguez, Yuma Catholic
T.J. Smith, Cibola
Marcus Weeks, Gila Ridge
More than likely, Cibola senior point guard Jordan Mitchell could have averaged more than 25 points per game if he wanted to.
With a powerful 6-foot-1 frame, Mitchell created matchup problems for nearly every opponent he faced.
But Mitchell, who is the 2012-13 Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Boys Basketball Player of the Year, exhibited a more mature style of play his senior season — one that allowed him to pick his spots for when to carry the scoring load and when to distribute to the rest of the Raiders.
“As a senior, he understood when he had to distribute, run offenses, spread defense and he knew when he just had to take over,” Cibola coach Tim Keller said about Mitchell, who averaged 16.3 points, 6.2 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 3.3 steals this season. “And there were times where we needed him to take over the game.”
“I like distributing the ball. Last year I think I went away from it and this year I felt like I had to do it more,” said Mitchell, who won the award for the second time. “It builds their confidence more and when guys have confidence, they'll do a lot more and they won't be afraid.”
With the size and skill-set that Mitchell possesses, it forced the area teams into a pick-your-poison philosophy. If they put a guard on him, he could go down low. If they put a bigger body on him, he could isolate and drive — either scoring at the basket or dishing it out for an opener shooter.
“His strength was the biggest matchup problem. If we put a guard on him, he'd post him up,” Gila Ridge coach Joe Daily said. Mitchell averaged 18 points, 4.6 assists, 4.5 steals and four rebounds against the Hawks this season. “With him, we knew what he's going to do. We knew he was going to get his 17-20 points and a handful of assists.”
Mitchell's scoring rose from 13.8 his sophomore year to 18.5 as a junior, but Keller said midway through that season and all of his senior season, the star point guard began to mature. He knew when to find his shooters on the wing, when to look inside for senior post Steven Loucks, who averaged more than 14 points per game, and when to simply take over the game.
“He was always the go-to guy. He always knew how to take it to the basket,” Keller said. “It was developing him into the distributor that has been the challenge. I'd say halfway through his junior year until now, it was quite evident that he learned a lot and came a long way in that aspect.
“He's grown up beyond his years. That's something that some kids never learn and he learned it as a junior in high school.”
“As a sophomore and junior, I wasn't that smart. I thought I knew everything,” Mitchell said of his progression.
There were still games where Mitchell lit up the scoreboard — 29 against Yuma High, 28 against Perry, 27 against Dobson and 25 against Chaparral — but three out of those four games resulted in losses. In the four games Mitchell was held to single-digits, three were wins — against Tucson (8 points/5 assists/6 rebounds/2 steals), Brawley (8 points/11 assists/4 rebounds/3 steals) and San Luis (6 points/10 assists/5 rebounds/2 steals).
Even in the game they lost, a Division I Section I tournament defeat to Westview, Mitchell scored eight points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out seven assists and nabbed six steals. Perhaps Mitchell's biggest strength was his consistency — he would regularly fill the entire stat line.
“We always knew what Jordan Mitchell we were going to get 99.99 percent of the time,” Keller said. “It is a luxury, players like him only come around once in a great while.”
But for Keller, that luxury is over. Mitchell's playing days at Cibola are over, not just on the court but on the gridiron as well — he twice won the Sun/Rotary offensive football player of the year award. His graduation, however, doesn't mean his impact is leaving Raider Gym.
“No we're not going to have Jordan Mitchell back and it'll be a big loss to not have Jordan out there, but the nice thing with Jordan is the other kids look up to him,” Keller said. “We have T.J. Smith coming up and have Isaiah Brown coming up and Matthew Gazda coming up. We got some of these players in our program who have been watching Jordan for two, three years and know what it takes to get to that level and are working to get to that level.
“Even though we lost Jordan from our basketball team, pieces of him are still going to be with us just for the players who had the chance watch him, play with him, practice against him on a daily basis.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881.