For freshman forward Mark Mitchell, nicknamed “Easy” by his teammates and head coach Jon Scheyer, the decision to remain with the team for another year was one he put a lot of thought into.
Mitchell announced his final decision Thursday via social media that he will be returning to Duke for his sophomore season, providing a huge lift to Scheyer and Blue Devil fans alike. He becomes the second Duke freshman to announce his plans for a second season, joining point guard Tyrese Proctor.
“Year one, ACC champs, we hung a banner,” Mitchell said in his announcement. “But we got something bigger in mind. The job’s not finished, and I’m coming back for it all.”
The five-star recruit was one of five Duke freshmen this past season to enter as a top-30 recruit in the nation. Starting every game until he was ruled out of Duke’s second-round NCAA tournament loss to No. 4-seed Tennessee due to a knee injury, Mitchell played an integral role on the squad.
Although none of his 9.1 points, 4.5 rebounds or 1.2 assists per game led the team, the 6-foot-8 forward often had the job of containing the opposing team’s best scorer and lifting pressure off guards Proctor and Jeremy Roach by attacking the rim. Throughout the season, Mitchell improved his finishing and decision-making, going without a turnover in seven of his last 10 games. His absence was certainly felt in the Blue Devils’ final game, as they struggled to match the Volunteers’ physicality and were ultimately overmatched.
Another strength of Mitchell’s was his efficiency. His 35.2% rate from behind the arc ranked only behind freshman Dariq Whitehead, and his overall field-goal percentage of 46.9% was tops on the team aside from centers Dereck Lively II, Ryan Young and Christian Reeves. While his volume of shots did not compare to the likes of freshman Kyle Filipowski or Roach down the stretch, he consistently made key baskets in important games.
Perhaps his biggest moment came in a Feb. 14 win against Notre Dame, in which Mitchell hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to put the Blue Devils ahead 66-62. The Kansas City, Kan., native was also instrumental in Duke’s Dec. 6 win against Iowa, holding forward Kris Murray — who finished the season averaging 20.2 points per game — to just eight points.
Proctor's return announcement came Monday. On Wednesday, freshman forward Dariq Whitehead declared for the 2023 NBA Draft.
With another talented incoming crop of freshmen, Mitchell will bring experience to the Blue Devils’ lineup. If he can continue to improve as an outside shooter and shot creator, he may play an even larger role on the team next season.
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Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.