North Texas’ Tony Mitchell is still leaning toward staying in school

Jeff Eisenberg

The day after Tony Mitchell learned his coach was leaving for LSU last week, the North Texas star shared his disappointment with his former high school coach.

"He was down," Dallas Pinkston coach Nick Smith said. "He was like, 'Man, I know Coach had to go because that's his dream job, but everything seems like it's messed up because the whole staff is going to be split up. I might as well leave and go to the NBA.'"

Smith allowed Mitchell to vent about North Texas coach Johnny Jones' departure for a while before encouraging the redshirt freshman not to make a rash decision to renege on his commitment to return to school.

Despite reports last week Mitchell "almost certainly" will enter the NBA draft, Smith said that's not the direction the 6-foot-8 projected first-round pick is leaning at this point. Smith said Mitchell is "almost sure" he'll return to North Texas for one more year, though there's still a slim chance that could change before the April 29 early-entry deadline depending on who the Mean Green hire as their next coach.

"Tony made a solid commitment to return to North Texas and that's what he's standing by right now," Smith said."He told me, 'Coach, I'm here. After they find a coach and meet with us, I'm almost sure I'm going to be here.'"

The temptation of the NBA had been easier for Mitchell to ignore prior to Jones' departure because he feels he has a lot to gain by returning to school.

Once the centerpiece of a highly touted Missouri recruiting class, Mitchell never enrolled at the school as a result of eligibility issues. He sat out the 2010-11 school year and the first semester of last season at North Texas before averaging 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in the final 23 games of the season.

Even though Mitchell's athleticism and leaping ability may be enough for late first-round consideration this June, he thinks he may be able to play his way into the top 15 by this time next season. He is also eager to participate in prestigious camps for top college prospects this summer, to take a business course at North Texas to help him learn to manage his money and to attempt to lead a talented Mean Green team to the NCAA tournament.

"He is definitely going to enter the draft after his sophomore season, but I think he knows it would benefit him to come back next year," Smith said. "He told me, 'I know physically I can go but mentally i think i need one more year.' That says a lot about his maturity."