By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Is he a 3 or a 4? Freshman Akil Mitchell may well end up playing both positions for the UVa men’s basketball team.
“He’s a skilled forward,” second-year coach Tony Bennett said Tuesday afternoon after his team’s practice at John Paul Jones Arena. “It just depends. He’ll probably work at both, but right there’s a need [at power forward], so he’s playing more of that.”
Of the six recruits who signed with Virginia for 2010-11, Mitchell was the least heralded. But he’s about an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than when he committed to the Cavaliers in October 2009, and he’s one of the team’s most athletic players.
At 6-8, 221, Mitchell now looks the part of a power forward — commonly known as a 4 — and he’s not overpowered when he battles 6-8, 240-pound senior Mike Scott in the low post.
“Physically, yeah, he’s grown a little bit and developed,” Bennett said. “I think he matches up with [power forwards] a little more right now. A lot of times it’s who you can guard, and when you play on the perimeter, chasing guys and guarding becomes an issue.
“I think he has the ability to do both. I really do. But we’ll use him where he’s needed. A lot of times our [power] forwards will use their perimeter skills, as Will Sherrill does.”
Mitchell was only 17 when he started summer school at UVa, so he’s young for his class. As a Charlotte Christian senior, he made 44 of 141 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc, so he has the shooting range to play the 3 (small forward). He’s impressed throughout fall workouts, in part because of his athleticism and ball skills, but also because of his attitude.
“Definitely when we recruited him we said, ‘You could be playing sometimes on the perimeter, and sometimes you’ll work [inside],’ ” Bennett recalled. “I just liked his versatility and his willingness to do whatever he can to help the team and find his chance.”