UMass freshman center Tre Mitchell shows signs of potential

  • Tre Mitchell, right, of UMass, shoots against Kenny Flynn, of Western New England, during an exhibition game, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 at the Mullins Center. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/6/2019 9:53:14 PM

AMHERST — When Matt McCall first saw Tre Mitchell play basketball, he was watching a completely different person.

He wasn’t the polished center who would become one of the top 100 recruits in the 2019 class, he was just a lanky kid who had garnered some Division I interest. In two years under Tony Bergeron at Woodstock Academy, Mitchell transformed into the type of center McCall is hoping will be at the center of the revival of UMass basketball. The third-year coach credited Bergeron, now an assistant with the Minutemen, for helping Mitchell reach closer to that potential inside him.

“Tre’s development in large part is due to Tony Bergeron,” McCall said two weeks ago. “I saw Tre two years ago at Woodstock when he first got there and he does not look the way he does now and his game evolved. From what they were doing there from a strength and conditioning standpoint and Tony what he was doing with him individual instruction-wise and the style of play, he became one of the top-90, 80, whatever his ranking was, player in the country in large part of what Coach Bergeron was doing there at Woodstock.”

When Mitchell announced his commitment to UMass in a March 30 tweet, it instantly sent shockwaves around the program and its fans. He was viewed by many as the piece that would turn around the Minutemen, someone who would become an all-conference player in short time and an instant favorite for Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year honors.

Externally, there was a lot of pressure that was placed on the shoulders of a first-year player, but that didn’t mean it ever reached Mitchell. He said he’s just focused on working hard and listening to his coaches and trying his best to execute what they ask of him on a daily basis.

“I know what I’m capable of and I just want to play my role on the team, and whatever comes out of it, comes out of it,” Mitchell said before the season. “(My role is) not really for me to determine, that will be down to Coach McCall, and I’m just going to go out there and do whatever he needs me to do each game.”

In Tuesday’s opening win over UMass-Lowell, everyone saw a glimpse of the type of presence Mitchell can be for the Minutemen on both ends of the floor. On defense, he was the rim protector McCall had hoped for and dominated the rebounds that fell in his vicinity. He occupied defenders on offense and used his space to help create openings for his teammates to attack the rim or find open shots along the arc.

Mitchell didn’t shoot the ball particularly well – finishing with 10 points on 3 of 11 shooting – but there was no doubt he made an impact on offense by just being there. He created the correct open shots for himself, but just didn’t get the bounces around the rim. It was a showcase of everything his high school coach thought made him such a nightmare for opposing teams to deal with on offense.

“He’s that old-school center,” Bergeron said. “He can go and play smash-mouth basketball in the post, he’s a phenom passer and he can shoot the leather off the ball from 3. He’s going to be a matchup problem for people for sure.”

Mitchell mentioned his motor as an area of his game he had to improve upon this season, and it is something McCall has mentioned a few times as well. The coach said Mitchell plays better when he’s angry and he sometimes has to poke the bear in order to get Mitchell to reach that next level. When that needs to happen, McCall can always turn to Bergeron, who said he has the magic formula to help Mitchell reach that next level of intensity.

“I know how to turn him on and off, I’ve got the push buttons there,” Bergeron said. “When coach need a little more out of him, I can step in and help him.”

Mitchell chuckled at the characterization that he has to get mad to reach that next motor level, he said there is just a point in games where he knows he needs to take his game up a notch. When that happens, he said it’s more self-motivational to pick up the slack and start working harder and making a larger impact on games.

“There’s a point where I hit where something does click and I’m just like ‘you need to turn it up,’” Mitchell said. “It’s not necessarily someone made me mad, it’s just a point where I realize I need to be going harder and it ramps my whole game up.”

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