Junior forward Tony Mitchell is not immune to these slumps. He went from averaging 14.5 points per game, to averaging three points per game in his last two games against Vanderbilt and No. 1 Kentucky.
Head coach Anthony Grant said he has no doubts in Mitchell and knows that he needs to be a big part of the offense if the Crimson Tide is going to be successful.
“We have a couple of plays set up for Tony,” senior forward JaMychal Green said. “We just have to uncover him and get him moving so he can just play ball.”
However, getting Mitchell into his normal rhythm has been difficult lately, and his scoreless effort in the 69-59 loss to Vanderbilt is proof.
“Tony took eight good shots [against Vanderbilt], and none of them went in,” Grant said. “Another thing we have to do as a team is figure out how teams are going to defend us and how we can help each other out all the way through.”
Green added, “We need Tony to score. He’s one of the best players on the team, and when he’s not scoring, it hurts a lot. If he would’ve scored, there may have been a different ending to the [Vanderbilt] game. He’s just got to stay focused and leave [his troubles] in the past. I know it’s hard for him, but he just has to compete and do what he does best.”
Grant, in his sixth season as a head coach, has a good idea of what Mitchell needs to hear and do to get back to the level of play that he achieved when he tallied 26 points, eight rebounds, two assists, three blocks and two steals against Wichita State.
When asked about Mitchell’s play, Grant recalled a time when Kevin Eastman, assistant coach for the Boston Celtics, asked Ray Allen, one of the best shooters the game of basketball has ever seen, how he got out of such a shooting slump.
Allen replied that he simply continued to work hard on a day-to-day basis, and he made sure he was in the rhythm he was supposed to be in.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do: Make sure you get good shots and that you’re prepared for any situation that comes at you,” Grant said. “I think that’s what any scorer will tell you.”
A scorer on Mitchell’s own team, freshman guard Trevor Lacey, echoed similar sentiments.
“Just keep working, keep shooting, don’t get frustrated and don’t force anything,” Lacey said. “Keep playing the game, and let it come to you.”
Another thing that has been lacking in Mitchell’s slump is the highlight reel dunk that he has become known for. Lacey thinks that opposing teams are beginning to plan for that and make sure they don’t give Mitchell those opportunities.
“I really think teams are taking that away from him,” Lacey said. “In two-on-one fastbreaks, they’re almost giving up the lay-ups. Trevor Releford has had about four points a game because of team’s running away from him and keeping Tony Mitchell from having that highlight play.”