Matt Mitchell said all he could do was smile. When he saw San Diego State’s First Round NCAA Tournament matchup, the Aztecs’ leading scorer and Mountain West Player of the Year rubbed his hands together.
That’s because when Mitchell was a growing up he wanted to play for Syracuse. As a kid, he said, he thought he was Carmelo Anthony. He even donned an orange headband from the time he was seven years old.
“Actually growing up Syracuse was my favorite school. As a young kid — if you talked to my parents or anybody that knew me as a kid — I wanted to be Carmelo Anthony. Growing up I kind of modeled my game after him that’s kind of where I get my mid-range game from,” Mitchell said after Selection Sunday.
Mitchell eventually parted ways with the headband after his dad encouraged him to be his own player (Be Matt Mitchell, not Carmelo Anthony).
Anthony of course needs no introduction around these parts for what he accomplished with Syracuse in 2003. His influence lives on as Mitchell said he gets his inside game from Anthony as he likes to “bully” players inside and get to his spots.
Early in his high school career Syracuse showed interest, but as things evolved the Riverside, California native decided to look at schools that were more suited toward his game. He ended up at San Diego State and says he’s happy to be there. With conference player of the year honors this season, a second appearance in the NCAA Tournament and being the second-leading scorer on last year’s 30-2 Aztecs team, what’s not to like?
Mitchell says it’s surreal to be playing Syracuse, but it represents a great opportunity to play against an all-time great coach in Jim Boeheim. He’s familiar with the 2-3 zone and insists the key is getting the ball to the middle, work the zone inside out and space the floor with shooters.
“I spent a lot of time — my middle school years and especially my high school years — just liking Syracuse and liking Jim Boeheim. Everything that he did, offensively, defensively with his players. I definitely could draw up that 2-3 zone pretty well. So hopefully when it comes to the game I can dice it up,” Mitchell said.