If the Tigers want to make a run in the postseason they need Mitchell at the point
NEW YORK — When you look at Shelton Mitchell’s numbers, nothing really jumps out at you.
The junior guard is averaging a solid 11.4 points per game and a modest 3.4 assist. He is also averaging 2.9 rebounds and is shooting 39 percent from the field overall.
However, statistics don’t always tell the whole story.
Mitchell does things for No. 19 Clemson that will not show up in the stat book. He is the Tigers’ facilitator. He is the glue to the offense, and if Clemson wants to advance past No. 12 seed Boston College in today’s quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, then it will need Mitchell to do it.
“He is important. There is no question,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “He is not always a big scorer. I think he is opportunistic. There are certain games where I think he will get more shots and he is certainly capable of doing those things to score, but there are other games because of the way he is being guarded or the way the game is being played that he is just a tremendous facilitator.”
Mitchell is as true of a point guard as they come. He rarely looks to be the star. He always wants to set his teammates up and get everyone involved.
The Tigers, the No. 4 seed in the ACC Tournament, have three other players—Marcquise Reed, Gabe DeVoe and Elijah Thomas—scoring in double digits. Mitchell plays a big role in making sure the offense runs through each one of those three.
“He puts a lot of the other guys in good position,” Brownell said. “His natural mindset is to look for others, and I think he has done a good job of that.”
If it was not for the season-ending injury to Donte Grantham, Brownell feel’s Mitchell’s assist numbers would be better than what they are this year. The Clemson coach feels that when they had Grantham, who tore his ACL on Jan. 20 against Notre Dame, they ran the court a little more than they do now without him.
“I think we would be running a little bit more,” Brownell said. “I don’t think we run quite as much because we just are not quite as deep. I think we try to control tempo in certain games, but having said that, Shelton is the guy that does the best job of executing in the half-court in what we do in terms of getting the ball to the right guy based off how he is making the reads on how people are guarding us.”
Clemson has seen what life is like without Mitchell. When he missed two games because of a concussion he suffered in the final seconds of an overtime loss to Florida State, the offense struggled. The Tigers scored just 57 and 58 points in losses to Duke and Virginia Tech.
DeVoe, who had a total of just 11 points in those two losses, was just a shell of himself as defenses were able to concentrate completely on him.
Reed was still scoring, but his ability to create and distribute the ball was limited because defenses were able to take that part of the game away from him without Mitchell on the floor.
“As the point guard he is probably going to score more and shoot more just because it is his natural instinct,” Brownell said. “I think our team plays better offensively if Marcquise is not our point guard and he is a guy that is our secondary guard.
“We certainly run some situations where we want the ball in Marcquise’s hands early in our possession. He can run the point in certain situations, but I don’t think he is as affective playing the point for 40 minutes.”
The offense just runs smoother and efficiently when Mitchell is in the game running the show. Reed is able to get more touches and create more either as a scorer or as a facilitator. DeVoe is able to come off screens and get open more and Thomas is able to control the inside better.
“I think Marcquise is much better moving in and out of that possession periodically to get his defender a different look,” Brownell said. “We think he is at his best when he concentrates on scoring and we can move him around and do different things with him. He does not worry as much about facilitating.
“He has proven this year with his assist numbers that if you come at him with two defenders or if he drives and penetrates and draws the defense, he will certainly find the open player. But, I think he is at his best when he is thinking about scoring. Certainly, playing with Shelton allows him to do that.”