August 05, 2014
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WICHITA, Kan. -- After a historic senior season for the Friends University men's basketball team, Joe Mitchell will be continuing to play the sport, this time north of the border. Mitchell, the NAIA Division II National Player of the Year, signed a contract to play with the London Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada Tuesday on campus.
"I'm very excited for a new experience. I've never been to Canada before, never played pro before, so everything's going to be new to me," said Mitchell. "I'm excited just to get out there and show what I can do to prove myself."
"Darryl Greene (Mitchell's agent) contacted me, and I have a good working relationship with him, he knows how we like to operate here in London," Lightning General Manager Taylor Brown said. "He keeps sending his guys here because he knows they're going to get treated the right way. He sent me some video and I immediately called him back."
From there, Mitchell flew to Indianapolis to play in front of London's coach, Carlos Knox, at the Knox Indy Pro-Am. Knox called Brown right away after, telling him Joe could be a diamond in the rough.
"We've only seen him play a couple of times live," said Brown, "but based on his performances in college and at the Pro-Am against professionals, he stood out and Carlos wanted him.
"It's tough for guys that don't play Division I to get in front of recruiters. It's tough for kids to get a shot, and we like giving kids like that a shot because we think they're extremely talented, especially with the numbers he (Mitchell) put up. You put up numbers like that in any league, it shows the type of player (he is.).
Mitchell led all of college basketball in scoring, averaging 32.7 points per game for the Falcons as the team set program records for wins, points scored, field goal percentage, and 3-point percentage in winning the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season championship. Friends ended the season #8 in the final NAIA poll, the team's highest ranking in school history, after advancing to the national tournament quarterfinals before losing to the eventual national champions.
"The biggest thing to me was an article with a quote from a teammate of his at Friends talking about how good of a guy he is to play with," Brown said. "That showed me his character. When you have teammates coming out publicly, that's huge for us. Not only can he put the ball in the hole, but he can carry and lead the team."
In addition to the scoring marks, Mitchell led the KCAC in assists, and was second in steals.
The Lightning have a history of success - the team won back-to-back NBL Championships in 2012 and 2013, and sent three players to leagues in Europe this past season. They also had a player in the NBA Summer League playing for the New York Knicks.
Mitchell has been busy since the Falcon's season ended, working to improve his game to extend his playing career.
"Hard work and hours in the gym. Almost every day I was in there trying to shoot, do dribbling drills," he said. "Any chance I can get to make myself better and give me an advanatage of a guy that may have been out there."
"Congratulations to Joe. It's an exciting time for us, and something we'll never forget," Falcons Head Coach Dale Faber said. "(It's) something we can keep growing our program with. A big thank you to Joe and all his teammates. It was a special group, a special year, and this tops it off."
If Brown has anything to say about it, Mitchell's success can continue in Canada.
"We think he's going to do great things in our leage. It's a guard's league, setup for guys like him to succeed."
Mitchell will start his professional career on October 7th when the Lightning's training camp opens.