FORT WAYNE – Wayne senior Justin Mitchell had an idea that Monday night was going to be special.
The 6-foot-3 guard was dealing with the stomach flu and almost needed to go to the hospital. But after he informed Generals coach Aaron Rehrer that he wouldn’t be able to make the annual basketball awards ceremony, which is co-sponsored by The Journal Gazette and SportsONE Ortho Northeast, he was strongly encouraged to come to IPFW on Monday night.
“(Rehrer) called me about 50 times, and he told me this was really important and I needed to be here,” Mitchell said. “He hit me with a text, ‘If you don’t come, I know where our relationship has been.’ I made up my mind I would get here.”
Mitchell needed to be at the event held at IPFW’s Walb Union ballroom to accept the Tiffany Gooden Award, which goes to the top male or female basketball player in the SAC. He is the first Wayne player to win the award, which was initiated in 1994.
Mitchell averaged 20.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists as the Generals went 12-9 and finished tied for second for the SAC regular-season championship this season. Wayne fell 68-56 to Homestead in the Class 4A in the sectional semifinals.
He left as Wayne’s all-time leading scorer with 1,416 points, surpassing former General Roosevelt Barnes’ 1,304. The Wright State recruit was named to the Top 60 workout.
“I’m really excited,” Mitchell said. “A lot of great players have been chosen for this award. All of my hard work and effort paid off.”
Mitchell was also honored as a member of the All-SAC and All-Northeast Indiana boys teams, and the conference and region girls teams were also honored.
North Side’s Shabaz Khaliq was named the SAC boys coach of the year after leading the Redskins to their first sectional championship in four years. North Side went 24-2, losing in the 4A regional to Hamilton Southeastern 59-55.
The Redskins also set a school record for points in a game in a 109-72 win over Bishop Luers that clinched the SAC regular-season title. Khaliq shared the boys coach’s award with Concordia’s Josh Eggold last year.
“It means a lot, because we’ve got a lot great coaches in our conference, a lot of good teams and good players,” Khaliq said. “It’s more of a testament to our kids and what our kids were able to accomplish on the floor. Obviously to be considered a good coach, you got to win and be successful.”
Concordia’s Dave Miller was named the SAC girls coach of the year after the Cadets went 19-4 and won the SAC regular-season title. Concordia fell to Garrett in the Class 3A sectional.
“It’s an honor because, there’s some great coaches in the SAC, and every game is a battle to compete against quality teams and quality coaching staffs that the SAC has,” Miller said. “I really appreciated it.”