Charlotte, N.C. • If any children were allowed to stay up late to watch Donovan Mitchell on ESPN on a school night, this was the last piece of advice they heard from the Jazz rookie:
“So hope all the kids out there who don’t like listening to their mothers yell and scream at them: Moms are always right. Just so you know.”
Yup, that sounds like Mitchell.
Utah fans have gotten to know the 21-year-old guard well in the past few months, particularly as he’s taken off as the best offensive player (18.4 ppg, 3.4 apg) on the Jazz and an exciting sign of the future. They know his first love was baseball. They know he is close with his mother and sister. They know he only got his driver’s license in the last few months.
But the rest of the world only just is getting to know Mitchell, and knowing him will be an important part of getting any legs on a Rookie of the Year campaign.
So it was part in that interest that Mitchell took an interview with Scott Van Pelt, who called him “the most exciting rookie in the NBA,” late Thursday night on SportsCenter. Jazz fans already think so, but the nation will have to get on board for him to win Rookie of the Year.
“I’ve heard stories from a lot of guys in the NBA that get drafted, they settle; they get paid, they settle,” Mitchell said. “I pride myself in being one of the guys, no matter what happens, who never settles. I’m going to go out there and give 110 percent.”
The interview covered mostly familiar ground: Looking at Mitchell’s interactions with NBA superstars, his workout with Chris Paul before the Draft and his 41-point game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Jazz also are trying to mount a campaign to get Mitchell to the All-Star Game in Los Angeles next month. While it’s unlikely he’ll be able to crack the field against Steph Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the loaded West, he looks like an early lock for the rookie squad, and he’s gaining steam for a dunk contest appearance.
Van Pelt asked if he was open to doing the dunk contest. He is.
“Man, that would be amazing. I told people that’s one of my favorite parts of All-Star Weekend. Growing up — man, my teachers will probably be watching this — I used to watch dunks in class. … That’d be an amazing honor if I got into it.”
There could be a lot more honors in store if the rest of the country begins taking note of Mitchell.