Two weeks after Texas Longhorns forward Dillon Mitchell publicly admitted that he was “definitely leaning towards” staying in the 2023 NBA Draft, the rising sophomore announced his returned to the Forty Acres at the deadline on Wednesday evening.
NEWS: Dillon Mitchell is withdrawing his name from the NBA draft and returning to Texas, he told ESPN. Mitchell will enter next season with high expectations as one of the most explosive athletes in the college game, a highly versatile defender and a projected first round pick. pic.twitter.com/DfwwfYE1aC— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 1, 2023
The news comes following an impressive NBA Draft Combine performance by Mitchell, who has experienced a rollercoaster year since signing with the Longhorns as the nation’s No. 8 prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. As Mitchell prepared to arrive on the Forty Acres, a 2023 mock draft from ESPN’s Jonathon Givony slotted Mitchell as the No. 7 pick thanks to an impressive senior season.
However, on a deep and experienced Texas team as a freshman, Mitchell was lost in the shuffle at times — he proved to be a hard worker and a good teammate capable of making highlight-reel dunks and blocks, but despite starting for the Horns, he only played 17.4 minutes as a freshman, averaging 4.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
Notably, opponents started leaving Mitchell alone offensively other than to keep him from getting dunks or offensive rebounds, as he proved incapable of regularly beating opponents off the dribble or creating shots away from the basket — he led the team with 32 dunks, but didn’t attempt a three and only went 7-of-32 shooting on far twos while making just 40.5 percent at the free-throw line.
The lack of offensive production from Mitchell resulted in a slide down draft boards following the season, positioning the combine as massively important for his stock. Mitchell responded, verifying his obvious athleticism with a 30.5-inch standing vertical and 37-inch max vertical while posting a 10.92 lane agility time that ranked 15th overall. More importantly, Mitchell showed off a retooled jump shot in drills, hitting 16-of-25 three-point attempts and generally impressing observers.
Dillon Mitchell didn't take or make a single 3 at Texas this year, so a little surprising how well he shot the ball at The NBA draft Combine today. Both off the dribble and with his feet set. Seems to have more potential here than previously indicated. pic.twitter.com/Zxg8rdDV6L— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 15, 2023
The improvement didn’t immediately translate to a scrimmage in which Mitchell missed both three-point attempts and was 1-of-6 shooting overall, but he did hit a jumper off the dribble and has made quick strides with his shooting since the season ended.
Dillon Mitchell snatch back and J pic.twitter.com/7wrMyDt92q— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) May 17, 2023
Even with the strong combine performance, the decision by Ron Holland to sign with G-League Ignite ensured that Mitchell will receive extensive playing time on the wing for Texas and a chance to return his draft projection into the lottery with improved shooting and overall offensive performance this season.
And the expected improvement by Mitchell combined with returning players like guard Tyrese Hunter and forward Dylan Disu supplemented with the transfer portal additions of lead guard Max Abmas, forward Kadin Shedrick, forward Ze’Rik Onyema, and guard Chendall Weaver means the Texas roster is close to complete and has the pieces to make another NCAA Tournament run.