January 19, 2011
Tony Mitchell never expected to be a poster case for the dangers of attending an unaccredited high school. He never expected to set the standard for uber-talented players who fail to put on an NCAA jersey. Yet, thanks to the murky backwaters surrounding one of his former schools -- Miami's Center of Life Academy -- Mitchell, unanimously considered one of the most talented prospects among the Class of 2010, is likely to spend an entire season on the sidelines unable to suit up for a threatening Missouri squad, the school he signed with as a senior at Pinkston (Texas) High.
The latest developments in Mitchell's topsy-turvy road to either an NCAA hardcourt or possible irrelevance come via Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports college basketball analyst Seth Davis, who brazenly declared, "I don't think Tony Mitchell is ever going to play college basketball," during a telecast on Sunday. Last week, the NCAA's Eligibility Committee was expected to announce that Mitchell had failed to meet the requirements for eligibility in time for the start of Missouri's second semester, a decision which would render him ineligible for his entire freshman season.
Yet, just when that decision was about to be announced by Missouri itself, the NCAA told the school to hold off, pending additional information that arrived in Indianapolis via FedEx from Center of Life Academy, the unaccredited basketball factory that preceded Mitchell's career at Pinkston. The core of Mitchell's eligibility issues can all be traced back to whether he completed enough "core courses" while enrolled at Center of Life.
If it is finally determined that he did earn enough core courses, then his high school diploma may finally be certified and Mitchell may be deemed worthy of attending college courses. Of course, that would make him eligible to play for the Tigers, at the same time handing Missouri its most prized recruit in at least a decade, one which coach Mike Anderson would almost certainly inject directly into Missouri's core rotation.
If those credits are rejected, Mitchell will almost immediately vault up the ladder of past cases of academic hardship, into a unique scenario which has emerged across recent years in the aftermath of widespread investigations of basketball diploma mills by the New York Times and other outlets.
That would be a shame for Mitchell and Missouri, but it might also serve a valuable purpose for other talented teen hoopsters across the country. While it's certainly not the legacy Mitchell will have imagined for himself, it might be an even more lasting one for the future of high school and college basketball.