When he started community college in fall 2017 at the age of 17, Mitchell quickly found himself and on academic probation and a redshirt player on the men’s basketball team.

“I hit a brick wall,” he recalled. “I felt like I was doing everything on my own, and I didn’t take things seriously enough.”

After a series of events and not being able to find his footing, Mitchell set out on a new path. He transferred to San Diego Mesa College in fall 2019, and, with the help of men’s basketball Head Coach Travis Nichols and Assistant Coach Talib Mahdi, sundry student services programs, and working with the Disability Support Programs and Services (DSPS) office, Mitchell went on to complete that first semester with a 3.3 GPA.

“As a staff, the joy we have in seeing him have success in the classroom is extremely satisfying, because we know the barriers he had to overcome,” Mahdi said.

Not too long after Mitchell’s first season with Mesa College wrapped up, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Life as a student athlete changed dramatically with classes moving online and his sophomore season cancelled, but Mitchell persevered. In a recent conversation, the 21-year-old Mitchell talked about his successes on and off the court, the support he found at Mesa College and what he’s most looking forward to in the upcoming year.

Q. What kind of support have you received while at Mesa College? 

A. The coaches are on their phones around the clock. There is endless support. There’s tough love sometimes, but always love. To get me comfortable at school, the coaches supported me in picking classes. The coaches showed me around to all the support services available to me, and since then it’s only been up from there. I got all the help I needed at Mesa.

Q. How do you define success on and off the basketball court? 

A. Success on the court is seriously what you make it; hard work pays off. That’s a cliché answer, but it is the truth. If you put in the minimal amount of work, you’ll get minimal results. If you stick to your craft and grind daily, you’re going to be successful. Being successful in the classroom means taking it seriously. Being successful is knowing what you want to do and attacking it — go at it 100%.

Q. What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming year? 

A. This season I’m looking to go as far as we can. In our last season we fell a little short in a few things, including expectations of my own game. The last season was a rollercoaster for me, and I’m looking to make a total 360-degree turn. I think we can make something happen this season and go as far as we can. I’m very excited about this team. 

Q. What’s next for you after Mesa College? A. Ideally I’d love to transfer to the University of Hawaii; my goal is to get an athletic scholarship. I feel like I could really be an impact player there. If not Hawaii, then I’d like to go to San Diego State, where both my dad and grandfather went, or possibly Fresno State or Cal State Fullerton. I am studying kinesiology and would eventually like to be a personal trainer, an athletic trainer, or possibly get a teaching credential to become a coach and teach PE. Hopefully something that can keep me close to basketball.

Q. What’s it like being a student athlete at Mesa College? 

A. There are a lot of responsibilities; all eyes are on you. You have to hold yourself high as an Olympian. That includes how you hold yourself in the classroom, how you communicate with teachers and to other students, as well as on the basketball court in how you deal with your coaches, teammates and your opponents. You’re held to a high standard both on and off campus.

Q. What advice do you have for others thinking about attending community college, or Mesa College specifically? 

A. Know that it’s a grind; it isn’t anything easy. Be optimistic. From the student athlete perspective, everyone is going to community college and trying to transfer to the best Division I college, so you have to make yourself stand out. Don’t be too nervous coming in and not knowing what you want to do. If you don’t know what you want right away, that’s fine, just give it some time and real thought.