Late-Night Shooting Appetite Keys Mitchell

Rutgers senior power forward Jonathan Mitchell is averaging 18.5 points in his last six games, but it isn't coming easy. Mitchell is putting in plenty of extra work, and his strong play isn't limited to the offensive end. Mitchell talked to about his late-night shooting, and coach Mike Rice discussed some other things the 6-foot-7 senior is doing so well.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – When many folks are sleeping, and when most college students are enjoying the social life, Jonathan Mitchell is breaking the silence inside the Rutgers Athletic Center.

His sneakers are squeaking, the bouncing of the basketball is echoing throughout the building and the sweet sound of the basketball passing through nylon is constant.

In Rutgers' last six games, the 6-foot-7 Mitchell is averaging 18.5 points per game, and shooting 59.7 percent from the field. And the scoring isn't coming from a bunch of chippies for the senior power forward, who is shooting 50 percent (13 for 26) from 3-point range during the stretch as Rutgers readies to host No. 9 Villanova on Wednesday.

"I'm getting in a lot of workouts at night, and getting a lot of shots up," he said. "I'm here at midnight, one in the morning almost every night, and it's starting to pay off for me."

First-year Rutgers coach Mike Rice was quick to answer as to the change in Mitchell's play the last few weeks, and in a way that speaks to Rice's influence and concentration on building a team.

"It's amazing how well defensively he's playing," Rice said. "He's doing it on both ends of the floor. He can be easily resting (defensively) and I still have to play him.

"He could be doing things off of the ball that aren't part of our formula, and it's amazing …how good offensively he's doing for us the last two or three weeks, that's how well defensively he's doing. That's the biggest surprise."

Mitchell leads Rutgers (12-11, 3-8 Big East) in scoring at 14 points per game and second in rebounding at 5.9 per game.

But it is his shooting, particularly from mid- and long-range, standing out to most. He is getting his shot off quickly, finding open spots despite opposing teams keying on him and shooting with tremendous accuracy.

"Last year I was hesitant at times," Mitchell said. "I didn't know when, and when not to shoot. This year I'm saying, ‘Hey, this is it for me. I have to be aggressive every chance I get.' I think that mentality came out with the repetition."

For Mitchell, it comes back to his late-night shooting routine.

"It's repetition, and picking my spots on the floor where I normally get the ball, and getting a lot of shots up," Mitchell said. "And just confidence.

"I know this team needs me to score the basketball, and coach is challenging me, and I think I'm stepping up like seniors should."

Another aspect to Mitchell's torrid shooting is his ability to get shots off quickly. He is catching the ball in the ready position and with his feet set, which allows him to push into his shot much quicker than a year ago.

"You have to get the shot off because the defenses are so good," he said. "I think my teammates are doing a good job of getting me open, I'm coming off screens pretty well and I'm in the right position. It's confidence."

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