Senior Justin Mitchell made his presence known with the Wayne boys basketball program on defense.
From Day One, when he came in, almost everybody was new and Elmhurst had closed, said Wayne coach Aaron Rehrer, who also was making his debut as a varsity head coach. I remember the first open gym, he told me he wanted to guard Xavielle Brown, who ended up being All-State, as a freshman. He just didn’t back down from anybody.
Then the Wright State recruit became known as a scorer. He is the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,381 (and counting) points.
It’s not really about scoring all the time, Mitchell said. It’s about going out there, working hard and staying positive.
Now all Mitchell wants to do is lead the Generals to their first sectional championship in 20 years.
This is my last year, so I want to go out hard, Mitchell said. We want to win a championship and make some history. There’s no more playing around. It’s all about focus.
The Generals (12-8) will open Class 4A sectional play at Huntington North on Friday against the winner of Tuesday’s game between Homestead and Huntington North.
Mitchell is averaging 19.9 points, 11 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 4.7 assists per game, all among the city leaders.
He is more important than anybody else in the city on both ends of the floor, Rehrer said. He has to put the team on his back. It doesn’t have to be all scoring. He just has to bring everybody with him. With this team, we have had our ups and downs.
Mitchell has been a starter for the Generals since the fourth game of his freshman year, and whether it is offense or defense, the one constant for Mitchell over the past four years has been hard work.
I get frustrated a lot, and I have been working on that too, Mitchell said. I expect so much of others because of how hard I work. I think everybody else is working as hard as me, but I have to remember I am probably the hardest worker out there.
Mitchell has seen the team go through its struggles this year on and off the court. Wayne lost four of five midway through the year and also has seen Mitchell’s twin brother, Jescus, miss games while dealing with off-the-court issues.
My brother (Jescus) is a big part of team chemistry, said Mitchell, who also had to deal with the death of his father a couple of years ago. We have just struggled. It’s about attitude and heart. You can’t teach heart.
And whenever it is over for the Generals, Mitchell will move onto to college basketball at Wright State.
Then it will start all over for Mitchell, back to his days of being a freshman trying to make an impression.
I didn’t expect to start when I came to Wayne, but I did in my first year, Mitchell said. I am just going to go down there (to Wright State) and work hard and earn a starting spot. (Head coach Billy Donlon) didn’t tell me I would start right away, like a lot of colleges do. He was just like if you want to start here, you are going to have to earn it. I like that.