Updated: Jun 11, 2022
Spend a few minutes evaluating 6’8” 2022 prospect Dillon Mitchell and it’s easy to see that he’s equipped with the surface-level tools needed to succeed at the next level. Combine that with his eye-popping fluidity, bounce and agility and you have a player that has a chance to be special. A native of Tampa, Florida, Mitchell grew up playing football until he opted to give basketball a shot after being prompted by his mother. He quickly fell in love with the game and hasn’t looked back. Mitchell started to make his mark on the local scene during his time at Sickles High School (FL) and on the EYBL circuit, but after a transition to Bishop McLaughlin to join Coach Derrick Sharp and 4-star prospect Emanuel Sharp, Mitchell’s game has really taken off.
He and Sharp, along with talented guards Anthony Davis, Jr. and Joshua Watkins, helped lead a team that was 2-22 the previous season to a 22-7 record and an appearance in the state championship. Mitchell immediately meshed with his new teammates and coaching staff and credits former USF and Maccabi Tel Aviv star, Coach Derrick Sharp for much of his development this past season. Mitchell worked on expanding his skill-set by exploiting mismatches off the bounce, acting as a facilitator in transition, being more assertive at the basket, and improving as a shooter. Mitchell also excelled as a cutter and benefited off a number of feeds from his teammates. With an uptick in confidence combined with his work ethic and natural gifts, Mitchell is just starting to scratch the surface of what type of player he can be. Look for the offers to continue rolling in as he gains more exposure over the coming months.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Mitchell discusses his growth as a player, his recruitment, his background, various off-court interests, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Dillon Mitchell, from Tampa, Florida:
Pro Insight: Talk a bit about your background.
Dillon Mitchell: I live in Tampa, Florida — I’ve lived here my whole life and I love it here, I love living in Florida. I’ve got two brothers and two sisters, and I’ve got one sister who has five kids — got nephews running all over the house. I started off playing football as a kid, I love football, and then my mom asked me to go to a tryout for basketball and I didn’t really want to go, but she told me that she’d take me out with some of my friends if I tried out for basketball. After that tryout I fell in love with the game and ended up stopping football to keep going with basketball. I love it now and that’s what I do every day.
PI: What positions did you play in football?
DM: I played wide receiver. I was always the tallest out of everybody in my grade so I played wide receiver.
PI: When did you transition to basketball full-time?
DM: I believe it was around fifth grade — that’s when I started to play basketball and take it seriously and I loved it.
PI: Were you ever tempted to restart football?
DM: There was for a little bit, I was actually thinking about it starting high school, but I really love basketball. After freshman year is when I got my first couple of offers and I was like, “nah I can really go far in this sport if I take it seriously” so I kept going with it.
PI: Any athletes in the family?
DM: My older brother played basketball and I know on my mom’s side they played football, so there’s some athleticism there, but it’s really just God gifted.
PI: You're listed at 6'8" — where do you get your height from?
DM: My mom is around 5’7” and my dad is like 6’0”, but I know all my uncles on my mom’s side are tall and my brother’s tall, he’s like 6’7”.
PI: For those that aren’t super familiar with your game — what are your greatest strengths?
DM: I would say using my athleticism, getting to the hoop and finishing over people. Defending, I’m real long so I can really defend full court. I’m also fast and athletic, so to me I can really guard all positions — I can guard a PG and keep up with them, stay in front and defend. Then I’m just working on everything to become an all-around great player.
PI: What do you feel you still need to improve on the most?
DM: This off-season I’ve been working a lot on the jump shot, just form and technique. Then working on my handles to control the ball. Mainly those two things are the main things I’m focusing on, and also in the weight room, becoming bigger and stronger.
PI: What are some underrated parts of your game you feel you don’t get enough credit for?
DM: I would say my vision on the court, there were a couple games during the season where I would have 7, 6, or 8 assists in a game. So I think my vision and my IQ on the court, hitting my teammates when they’re open, finding them when they’re cutting, and being unselfish.
PI: Who has been the toughest individual matchup you’ve ever faced?
DM: I’d definitely say, I think it was the second session of EYBL, I’d definitely say Emoni Bates. He’s definitely like Kevin Durant, long and can shoot it. That was a tough matchup, but it was a fun one though. It was fun to go against him.
PI: Were you matched up on Emoni?
DM: Yeah, I mean we played them three times so the first time we played them we went into a zone; then the second time I kind of guarded him — me and my teammate Lewis kind of took turns guarding him; then the third time we played him we went into a zone. But it was definitely fun to guard him, and I would love to continue to guard him — maybe in this EYBL coming up.
PI: How well do you think you played against him?
DM: Good. I definitely did good, you know he’s the top player in our class , so being able to guard him was just fun and I’m definitely ready again.
PI: Do you model your game after anyone in particular?
DM: Not really. I have my own game, but there are definitely people I watch play a lot. I watch Ben Simmons play a lot, he’s a big guard. The way he moves, gets to the hoop, and sees his teammates, I look at him a lot. I look at Giannis, the way he gets to the hoop and what moves he uses to get to the hoop. Dudes like that.
PI: What are some short term goals you have for yourself as a player and as a person?
DM: I’d definitely say one of my short term goals is getting ready for the next level in the weight room. College is just different, you can just look at other than skill, just their bodies, the size of the athletes in college. One, getting ready for that, getting my body right, my health right, so if I’ve got to be put on that court in college for the whole game I’ve got to be ready. So I’d say that’s definitely one short term goal, just getting ready for the next level. Then in college and even now, just developing for the long run — like if I get to the NBA. That’s the goal, and it’s not just about getting to the NBA, but staying in the NBA, competing in the NBA, showing who you really are and stuff. So I’d definitely say working on my skills to be the best player right now is a long term goal, but for a short term goal I would say getting my body and stuff right for the college level.
PI: How about long term?
DM: Definitely having a successful college career and then making it to the NBA and competing in the NBA for a long time. Then with college, I’m not sure what I want to major in yet, but getting a degree would be nice, too.
PI: Describe this past season.
DM: This past year there were some ups and downs. We caught COVID, we had a COVID case, so we were out for about two weeks. But I think we all mentally stayed focused and then every night we came out to compete and gave it all we got, so it was definitely a fun season and I can’t wait to get back to it. We all competed, we all played with our hearts, it was just fun. The bond was there. Everybody on the team loved each other. The coaches, we all loved the coaches, the bond was just there. When the bond is there it really shows on the court.
PI: How do you feel like you developed this past season?
DM: I think I grew a lot. I think one of the main things coming from Sickles to Bishop [McLaughlin], there was a lot of hype around it when everybody saw me, Emanuel [Sharp], Josh [Watkins], and everybody transferring to Bishop. There was a lot of hype around us. So just living up to it and being able to perform was big. And then my confidence, I think that was the biggest thing, just having the confidence. I get that ball I gotta look to score, I get that ball I gotta look for my teammates, because I know that’s what they’re looking for. The confidence, I think the confidence was just the main growth coming from last season to this season. So the confidence was there getting to the hoop, finding my teammates, making the right plays. That was definitely one of the biggest things, and coming from Sickles I believe I weighed like 170 pounds and I’ve put on 20-25 pounds in the past year so that’s a pretty big growth. It’s definitely showing on the court, me gaining weight, I was able to get out of box outs, get a rebound and go back up, finishing over and through contact, all of that. So that’s definitely a big growth as well.
PI: What type of player were you before joining Bishop McLaughlin?
DM: This year I had opportunities to get to the hoop, but last year I had those same opportunities, but would back it out because of my size and the guys in front of me were much bigger than me so I would back it out. But this year I was like, “I don’t care who is in front of me, I’m gonna attack.” I had the confidence all there so that was definitely a big thing.
PI: What are some things you bring to a team off the court?
DM: Off the court I love all my teammates and I know my teammates love me. I like to have a good time. There are certain times where you have to be ready to play, but there’s also fun times and in the hotels we have some fun times. On the court, I would say leadership. I like to make sure all my teammates are succeeding, as well. So if they’re messing up on something I let them know how to fix it — like if they’re messing up on a zone or something I’ll tell them, “hey you need to do this” just so we can be successful. So definitely leadership, but off the court it’s just fun. There’s times when you get serious, but whenever it’s not serious we have a lot of fun.
PI: Are you the jokester on the team?
DM: No, we have this one kid named Josh [Watkins], he is the team goof and it is the funniest stuff ever. All the dudes on the team are hilarious. I really love being on this team and we have really good times.
PI: How would you describe your personality?
DM: My personality, I believe I’m funny [laughs]. So I have a lot of fun times, I like to make jokes, and then when it’s time to get serious you get serious.
PI: Do you feel like you’re underrated as a prospect?
DM: I definitely think there are more things that I need to work on before it’s like ‘five-star’ and stuff like that. There’s a lot more things that need growth in my game. I can say there are certain parts of my game that I mentioned earlier like my vision, getting to the hoop, my handles. I believe over the past year from Sickles to now, the way I handle the ball and the confidence handling the ball has grown. So there’s definitely parts of my game that are underrated. Then my athleticism — that’s one of the main things people know me for is my athleticism, finishing over contact, finishing over people, going and getting alley-oops that Emanuel [Sharp] throws no matter where he puts it. So that’s one thing I would definitely say.
PI: What’s the latest with your recruitment?
DM: I’m talking to a lot of schools right now. I’d say the most I’m talking to are Virginia Tech, Florida, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Auburn. So I’m really excited about that, just being able to learn more about programs and gain relationships with coaches and I can’t wait until the dead period is over — I want to start visiting and get a look for myself — try to meet these coaches and talk to these coaches. Definitely looking for somewhere I fit in, and I know once I go visit I’ll get that sign that it just feels like home wherever I’m at and that would be a big thing for me so I can’t wait for that.
PI: Who have you been hearing from the most lately?
DM: I would say Vanderbilt, Florida, Virginia Tech, and Ole Miss — those four that I have offers from, they contact me a lot. I do talk to Georgia, Auburn, and Arkansas — I talk to them a lot, too. They haven’t thrown offers yet, but the four that I have offers from other than the other schools, they’re the ones I talk to the most I would say.
PI: Did you have a dream school growing up?
DM: I really didn't. I know me being from Florida, the University of Florida was always a big deal, and I’ve always known everything about Florida, I love Florida. But I didn’t really have a dream school where I was like, “this is where I want to go when I grow up.” But me being from Florida I always knew about Florida and liked Florida.
PI: Did you ever expect to be receiving this much attention?
DM: I knew it was definitely a goal. As a kid I would see kids committing to schools and going to play, like out of high school, committing to go play football or basketball for all these big time schools and I was like, “wow I can’t wait until I get there” and work hard enough to get there. Now that I’m here I love it, it’s great.
PI: How did your first offer open your eyes or change your approach?
DM: My first offer was from the University of Florida, and that’s a big time school. So seeing that I was like, “wow I can really go far with this if I put the right work in, put the effort in, put my mind to it then I can really go far and make it far in this sport.”
PI: What are you ultimately looking for in your school of choice?
DM: I’m looking for a great fit where I can be successful on and off the court. A great school academic-wise for me to get a great education and then just a place that feels like home, the bond and relationship is there with the coaches. How I would fit into their style of play, how they would use me to run certain plays and stuff like that. Fit is the main thing, how you fit into it. Going there and looking at the campus for yourself, being around the people that would be there when you’re there. Then relationships with coaches and academics, those are all big things for me.
PI: How do you see your role playing out at the next level?
DM: Definitely someone who can handle the ball and find my teammates, so maybe 2-4 or 1-4. I believe I can really play any position — especially with the work I’m putting in, the way I’m seeing my game grow, to play anything at any level, do anything the coach needs me to do.
PI: What position(s) do you currently play?
DM: At Bishop [McLaughlin] I play like the small forward or power forward [position], but I handle the ball a lot like off rebounds. Coach Sharp tells me to push it because he knows I can handle it. Sometimes I’ll start plays because I can find my teammates. Then if my teammates like Emanuel are taking shots I’m right there under the hoop getting rebounds and going back up. Defensive rebounding, boxing out, even guarding the big man, guarding the 5’s and 5’s guarding me. Coach Sharp sees the potential in me so he’ll put in me positions that I’m not used to because he knows at the next level I’ve got to get used to playing stuff like that and doing things they do at the next level. I love it at Bishop, Coach Sharp knows what he’s doing, that’s why I trust him a lot. I trust his process, he knows what he’s doing and he’s going to put me in the right position to succeed.
PI: What are some examples of the 'uncomfortable positions' Coach Sharp puts you in?
DM: Like at Sickles, a team would go man and we wouldn’t really go iso ball if there were mismatches. Now at Bishop, Coach sees the iso and he’s telling me, “Dillon go get the ball and start at the high post and iso. If you can go past that man then go past him.” Those are some things I wasn’t really doing last year so doing it now it’s like, “ok these are the things I can do and these are things that I need to get used to doing,” because at the next level they see mismatches and take advantage of that. At the next level they want to see you do more than just rebound, they want you to handle the ball. Me being 6’8” handling the ball, I know a lot of colleges look at that.
PI: How would you define the word ‘success?’
DM: To me success means, whatever I have planned to do, me achieving that. So if I have a plan to be successful in college, that’s me achieving that. One thing I want to achieve is developing my game, so I would say one thing I’ve been successful at from last year to now, I’ve definitely been developing my game. I succeeded in that, developing my game. Now developing my game enough to get to the next level and once I feel confident in that and I’m ready for the next level, that’s another success to me. Seeing growth and stuff like that, those are all successful things.
PI: What do you personally feel you’ll need to accomplish in your career in order for you to become satisfied?
DM: Making it to the NBA for sure and staying in the NBA, that’s a big thing for sure. Some dudes make it to the NBA and then they’re down in the G-League after a month or two. So being in the NBA, staying in the NBA. Making money, going far in my career with basketball. That would be very successful to me and I’d definitely be very happy.
PI: Your mom is Polish — have you thought about playing for the Polish National Team?
DM: No, it’s definitely been talked about and I would be interested in it. We haven’t really fully gone for it, but that would be really interesting.
PI: What motivates you to work hard?
DM: Getting better. Definitely getting better. I have a chance to play college ball for free, hopefully make it to the NBA. So those are all goals I’ve been dreaming of since I was a kid and I’m here. I’m here now and I can do it. So knowing I can do that, it motivates me every day to work hard, get better, and improve.
PI: What would you say is the smartest purchase you’ve ever made?
DM: That’s a tough one. I would say when I was a kid we bought a little rim for my backyard. When I was a kid I was on it every day, it didn’t matter what time, I was out there at night, 10 PM at night on that rim. The growth for basketball really showed because I would be there, even when it rained I would be out there sometimes on that rim shooting, dunking, doing fun things. So I think that was a big purchase.
PI: Do you have a favorite book?
DM: Oh I have this one book that I read when I was younger, it’s called The One and Only Ivan. I know they made a movie for it too, but I loved that book. I don’t know why, but I loved it though.
PI: Talk about your most embarrassing moment.
DM: It was back when I used to play football, I had got a mild concussion. I ran and was going for a route during a game and just ran into the fence pole and I was just like, “how did that even happen?” and everybody was asking me questions and I was just like “what?” [shaking his head]. So to me it was funny, I don’t really get embarrassed — it was funny though — it was kind of embarrassing because it was like, “bro you ran into the fence pole?” and it’s like “yeah bro.”
PI: What’s your favorite all-time memory on the basketball court?
DM: Beating Emoni Bates in the Peach Jam to go to the final four, that was definitely awesome. Then beating Andrew Jackson to make it to the State Championship game, that was awesome. There are a lot of great memories I’ve had on the court. I remember when I was younger we played this one team that we lost to earlier in a tournament and we played them again in the championship and we had made it all the way to sudden death, first to score wins. And I scored right off the tip and we all just went crazy for the championship game. So I’ve had a lot of fun moments in basketball, I love it.
PI: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
DM: I don’t know if I have any pet peeves. I’d say one thing I don’t like, I don’t like the beach — no, I don’t really like the ocean. I don’t know why. The beach, I like going to the beach and stuff, but getting in the ocean I’m not really a big fan of that. But pet peeves, I wouldn’t really say I have any pet peeves.
PI: Who would you say has been the biggest influence on your life up to this point?
DM: Probably my parents. My mom, she’s sacrificed a lot, like she missed birthdays to come to tournaments and stuff like that and she’s always been there for me ever since the jump. Motivating me, correcting me when I’m wrong and stuff like that, so I would say my mom for sure.
PI: Would you say you rely more on your natural talent and ability or on your work ethic?
DM: I would definitely say my work ethic, because a lot of kids nowadays are the same, very athletic, doing things that I can do. So now it’s doing things that separate yourself from kids like that. Like there’s a lot of kids that have athleticism like me, jumping into contact, finishing over people. So now it’s other things like handling the ball and making moves to get past them, doing moves so that way they can’t block your shot because of that athleticism. So the work ethic you put in at the gym, it will all go over the athleticism and stuff like that. Having athleticism definitely helps you a lot, but I would say your work ethic and the way you grow and certain things that you work on put you over the top.
PI: Who’s someone you really look up to?
DM: My mom again, for sure. My mom has been there since the jump through everything. So she’s been there pushing me every day, waking me up really early in the morning to do school work. She’s been there since the jump, missing birthdays like I said, at every tournament. Even if there were some she had to miss because of something, she’d be on Facebook live trying to watch, like she has always been there.
PI: Talk about a time or story in your life that you feel has really shaped who you are today.
DM: I would say switching into the EYBL definitely shaped me into who I am now. The level of competition that I played and then seeing all of those coaches watching the games. Especially at Peach Jam, Peach Jam is full of coaches: Kentucky, Duke, with Coach K or Coach Cal, seeing all those coaches watching games. I remember Chris Paul was there, seeing LeBron James. So I would say that shaped me into who I am now, and getting my first offer freshman year definitely did because it pushed me to work even harder. It pushed me to grow into a better player and it pushed me harder into who I am now. Now it keeps going, me receiving more offers pushes me every day. Me getting better on the court, seeing the growth on the court just pushes me every day to just become better and better and better.
PI: How have you handled and responded to adversity in your life?
DM: I’m really low-key. I just work on myself so I don’t really go out there like that...so I would say I just focus on myself, keep working really hard, don’t really let people get to you, continue to do what you do, have the right people behind you, choose the right friends, choose friends that motivate you and help you to become better. So I’d say dealing with adversity, I don’t really listen to stuff like that so I just keep going. Keep going with the pace I’m going, stay on the right track and do what I love to do and do what’s right.
PI: Is there a time in your life when you had to face adversity and learn from it?
DM: No, not really. There were a couple times where I had bad injuries, I wouldn’t say it was adversity though. With injuries, I’ve dislocated my knee, I broke my kneecap and stuff like that. So I thought going forward from that point like, “it’s going to be rough.” I had bad growing pains in my knees. So I just kept going and trying to heal from it and everything. I love basketball so much I wasn’t going to stop and that’s why I am where I am now. Dealing with that stuff, I got through those things and I’m happy that I did, kept rolling with it and didn’t give up or nothing like that.
PI: If you woke up tomorrow to see a fortune in your bank account, what would be your first purchase?
DM: I’d get a financial planner. I’ve seen some videos on YouTube where, I think it was Chris Paul, he said he bought a lot of stupid things when he got his first checks and stuff. And he said words of wisdom, “first person you need to get is a financial advisor to help you with your money because if you don’t you’ll spend it on stupid things and you won’t even know.” So learning from people like that, that will definitely be my first purchase.
PI: If you were to set aside a small budget, what would be a splurge item?
DM: Definitely a car. I want a Mercedes so bad, that’s my dream car, a nice Mercedes. So I would say a car and then get my mom a house. Definitely get my mom a house, I know my mom wants a Range Rover. My mom has been there from the beginning so I gotta make sure I get something for her. Gotta take care of her.
PI: Any model of Mercedes?
DM: Yeah it’s called the AMG GT63, it’s like a four door, it’s nice. I think it’s the fastest four door Mercedes, it’s nice. I’ve got my mind set on that. I’m going to get it, I’ve got to.
PI: What are you most passionate about outside of the game of basketball?
DM: Just making sure I’m doing the right thing, making sure my parents are proud of me, just staying on the right track. I think a lot of times kids are on the right track and they mess up with one mistake. So just staying out of trouble, staying on the right track, keep doing what I’m doing, things like that.
PI: If you weren’t pursuing a career as a professional hooper, what do you think you would choose to do?
DM: When I was a kid it was a firefighter, I wanted to be a firefighter. Now, and maybe because I watch Criminal Minds, but the FBI. For some reason I would want to be in the FBI. I think even with me going into basketball that’s something I would still be interested in in college — like majoring in that or law school or something like that. I would definitely be looking full time into that, I think it’s really interesting and cool.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
DM: Family. Fun. Hard-worker. Determined.
PI: If someone were to write a book or a movie about your life, what would be the title?
DM: Adventures with Dillon, yeah I would say Adventures with Dillon [laughs]. Because there’s a lot of fun things that go on, I think my life is real interesting. A book on me, it would just be an adventure. My mom, she’s kind of like me, she has fun and stuff, and whenever we’d be out having a good time, she be like, “adventures with Jen” — that’s her name, she’ll be like, “adventures with Jen” [laughs]. So I think that would be a funny one, Adventures with Dillon.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?
DM: Just someone who goes out there and gives it their all — someone who stays positive, doesn’t get angry or upset during mistakes on the court. Someone who stays positive and keeps people around him positive, keeping people up, not putting anybody down, motivating people. Someone who is unselfish. I don’t want to be a selfish person or anything, so making sure everybody around me is good, keeping others happy and stuff like that. Bringing a smile to people's faces because it’s way more than basketball a lot of the time.
Watch the full interview with Dillon, here