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Mitchell a Mountaineer

State Player of the Year Makes Decision


Chipola All-American guard Casey Mitchell will take his game to the Big East next season, choosing to sign with the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Mitchell, a 6-foot-4-inch guard from Savannah, Ga., averaged 20 points per game for the Indians this season and was the Panhandle Conference Player of the Year.

He led Chipola to a 34-2 record and a third-place finish in the national tournament.

Mitchell said he chose to play for West Virginia and coach Bob Huggins because of the opportunity for immediate playing time.

“I knew they were losing some people, they were losing their starting shooting guard,” Mitchell said. “That’s why I think I have a chance to come in and play.”

Mitchell said he also liked the style of play of the Mountaineers, who finished 23-12 last season and 10-8 in conference play before being knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Dayton.

“Their offense goes through the guards and they play up-tempo and that’s the way I want to play,” the Indians’ star guard said. “I think I’ll fit in well.”

Chipola coach Greg Heiar said he thought West Virginia was a great destination for Mitchell.

“I think it’s a great decision for Casey not only as basketball player but as a person,” he said. “Coach Huggins will do a great job to continue to develop Casey. It’s a perfect fit and I’m really excited about that.”

West Virginia loses starting shooting guard Alex Ruoff, who averaged 15.7 ppg this season, opening up a starting position in the backcourt.

“They’re planning on plugging Casey into that role,” Heiar said. “They’ve got everyone else back and they’re going to be a really good team next year. That team has a chance to go to the Final Four next year with the addition of Casey.”

Heiar said that Mitchell had the skills, particularly the scoring skills, to be a difference-maker for West Virginia the next two seasons.

“The thing about Casey is he came here as a shooter and he’s leaving as a scorer,” the coach said. “He can get baskets, he can get to the free throw line, get to the rim, he’s got a floater, he can catch and shoot 3-pointers, he can shot fake, he has a lot of dribble moves…he can just score in so many ways. He’s the best scorer that I’ve coached. I think he’ll continue to do that at the next level.”

Mitchell shot 45 percent from the field as a sophomore, including 34 percent from the 3-point line and 80 percent from the free throw line. His 20 ppg was twice what Mitchell averaged as a freshman.

“He sacrificed as a freshman and played less minutes to learn and get better,” Heiar said. “There was a plan that took place and Casey bought into that plan and I’m so proud of him for that.”

Mitchell, who came to Chipola weighing 240 pounds, has since trimmed down to 215 but said he still has some work to do physically to get ready for Big East play.

“I’m going to (lift weights) a lot more before I get there,” he said. “I need to work on getting in shape more. They’ve got some big-time athletes (in the Big East). I need to get ready for that."

“I only have two years left, so I need to make the most of it.”

Chipola posted a record of 69-4 over the two years that Mitchell played.

In his sophomore season, the Indians won a school-record 32 straight games and completed the first perfect 12-0 Panhandle Conference season in school history.

Mitchell scored 38 points in Chipola’s 78-73 NJCAA tournament semifinal loss to Salt Lake, little consolation for a team that had its sights set on a national title all year.

However, Mitchell said he will look back on his season fondly.

“It was a good year,” he said. “We wanted to get the national championship, but we set some records, went undefeated in conference for the first time ever and did some great things.”

Mitchell said he chose West Virginia over Kansas, Memphis, Tennessee, Kentucky and Oklahoma State.

Chipola has made a habit in recent years of sending players to major conference programs, with Mitchell’s teammate Jeremy Jacob headed to Oregon.

Heiar said he believed Mitchell, like several other Indians players before him, will excel at Division-I.

“All of the kids who have left here have impacted the school they’ve gone to at a high level and I expect Casey to do the same,” the coach said. “I have great confidence in Casey’s ability to score the ball at that level.”

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