Work Ethic Drives Mark Mitchell Jr. Both in Basketball and In Track
Fifteen year old Mark Mitchell Jr. took part earlier this month in the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team minicamp in Colorado.
Kobe Bryant built a legendary basketball career not on the championships he won or the scoring records he set, but on the hours of hard work he put in to accomplish those feats.
A boy in Kansas was paying attention.
Mark Mitchell Jr. has been a fan of Bryant since he was old enough to recognize him during televised games and commercials. Over time, he came to appreciate Bryant’s work ethic through stories he read and how others described Bryant as someone to emulate because of how hard he worked.
Mitchell began to apply a similar intensity to his efforts to be a great basketball player and also to his work in track and field, efforts that are paying off now that the small forward is one of the top high school basketball players from the Class of 2022 and getting attention from USA Basketball Junior National team.
Mitchell was just 10 years old when he first saw a huge reward from the commitment, winning an age-group long jump title at a the AAU Track and Field Junior Olympics in 2014. He captured the title on his final jump, leaping 17 feet, 3 inches to beat the reigning champ, who had jumped 17 feet.
More recently, Mitchell led the Central boys basketball team from Overland Park, Kansas, to a 7-0 record and the 2018 Jr. NBA World Championship title, scoring six crucial points in the final minutes of the championship to secure the title.
“It’s been really amazing,” Mitchell said of achieving so much success while still a teenager. “It’s been a lot of hard work. I love doing it. So, every day reaching those goals and reaching new things is what I strive to do every single day. That’s why I work so hard, but it’s been really great.”
Mitchell’s hard work on the basketball court helped earn him an invitation to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the 2018 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team October minicamp. He was one of 28 players from the Class of 2022 to be named to the USA Junior National Team.
“It’s an amazing experience getting to compete with some of the best players in my class,” said Mitchell, who plays for Immaculate Catholic School in Lansing, Kansas. “Just getting invited is an honor, because I know there are only so many kids that get invited across the country.”
Mitchell, who says he is 6-foot-6 now, credits his parents for helping him every step of the way, but they haven’t really had to push him too hard. Wanting to be like Bryant and achieve his dreams on the basketball court have been enough to motivate him.
Like many young players his age, he harbors dreams of playing professionally and maybe one day representing his country as part of Team USA in the Olympics.
“I think it’s kind of just natural,” he said. “I just always want to get better and be the best. I don’t want to be second or just average because that’s just … if I’m going to be average, I might as well not even do it. Anyone can be average, but not everyone can go the extra step and take it to the next level.”
Mitchell said he likes to know what he is going to work on before he gets to the basketball court. He puts together a plan ahead of time to maximize his time. His father often is there with him rebounding the ball or feeding him passes. He said he always works on areas of his game he knows he needs to improve. Sometimes he sees a move from another player,and he’ll begin incorporating it into his game during those practice sessions.
Mitchell said he is hopeful that his first experience with USA Basketball ends with him eventually making a national team. He said the thought that basketball could actually allow him to travel around the world and experience other cultures and countries amazes him. That fact alone serves as motivation to improve and strive to be his best.
While he has grown into one of the best basketball talents his age in the country, he maintains an interest in track and field. He plans to continue participating in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter sprint events as well as the long jump for his high school next spring.
“I love the process,” Mitchell said of track. “It’s really hard, but I like getting better every day. Track is one of those sports where you can do that.”
Kyle Ringo is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.