Transfer Mitchell finding his groove

After sitting out a season because of NCAA transfer rules, Rutgers power forward Jonathan Mitchell is rounding into form as the Scarlet Knights' Big East portion of the schedule kicks into gear. Mitchell is averaging 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds heading into Wednesday's game at No. 8 West Virginia. He also has improved his production in the absence of center Greg Echenique.

There are still moments junior power forward Jonathan Mitchell feels a half-second slow, other times he gasps for a breath when he knows he shouldn't have to.

But as Big East Conference play kicks into high gear for the Scarlet Knights, who play at No. 8 West Virginia on Wednesday (7 p.m.), Mitchell feels himself less and less affected by sitting out a season after transferring from Florida.

"The first 10 games was me getting the rust off and getting back into the groove,'' the 6-foot-7, 225-pound Mitchell said. "The competition is getting a little better, and I feel my game is elevating.''

In the close losses to North Carolina and Cincinnati, Mitchell averaged 14 points and eight rebounds.

He is also being asked to take a more active role rebounding, which was an area of deficiency heading into the season. With center and leading rebounder Greg Echenique out for the season with an eye injury, more rebounding has become a dire need.

The Scarlet Knights (9-4, 0-1 Big East) were out-rebounded by 12 against the Tar Heels, and 13 by Cincinnati.

"I have to be more aggressive, and I think I'm showing that,'' Mitchell said. "Between me, Hamady (Ndiaye) and Dane (Miller), definitely we can stick in there and get more rebounds. But our guards have to step it up, too, and get more rebounds.''

Since the loss of Echenique after the seventh game of the season, Mitchell's rebounding and scoring numbers increased as the Scarlet Knights look to replace Echenique by spreading his production across the roster.

Mitchell averaged 8.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in the seven games before Echenique was lost, and is averaging 11 points and six rebounds a game since.

"What I've liked about the last couple of games is he's stuck his nose in there and he's been rebounding better,'' Rutgers coach Fred Hill said. "That's one real positive change, and I'm asking for stuff that I'm not sure I can get. I'm asking, and J-Mitch has done a great job. I've asked him to take it to another level, and he has.

"Now, I have to get him to take it to another level. Our guards have to take it to another level. I have to get (Ndiaye) on the floor.''

Mitchell's transition from national power Florida, where he was part of the Gators' 2007 national championship team, to rebuilding Rutgers has been solid, although some folks hoped for the spectacular.

But on a team where Mike Rosario is the first scoring option, and sometimes the second, Mitchell has worked to find his niche in the offense.

"I think he's done a great job of really understanding when and when not to (shoot), and facilitating the offense and taking shots when they're available,'' Hill said. "I think 11, 12 shots in a game for J-Mitch is really being involved. And he's the guy who makes the right play, and the right pass, and hopefully will shoot the ball at a little better clip.''

Mitchell's 116 shot attempts are second to Rosario's 197 on the team. He is shooting 40.5 percent from the field, including 28.2 percent from 3-point range.

"He's got a great feel for the game,'' Hill said. "He's very well involved in our offense by facilitating and making other people better. When he gets open shots, he's got to knock them down for us. He's getting more consistent at that, and I think that was going to come with time and experience.''

Rebounding, as always, will be a huge key when the Scarlet Knights visit West Virginia, and then play at Providence on Saturday.

There is also a need to get a win after two straight losses.

"We've got to get over this hump and get a win,'' Mitchell said. "For me, it's definitely frustrating, but our whole team attitude is like, ‘ok, we're close. Let's get this next win.'

"We put are putting it past us and moving forward, but Cincinnati is a game we could have won, and should have won. But they're a great team, a veteran team, and executed down the stretch and we didn't.''

Scarlet Report Top Stories