MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Senior forward Tre Mitchell had yet to play inside the WVU Coliseum prior to Monday’s regular-season opener vs. Mount St. Mary’s.
Mitchell, a transfer from Big 12 foe Texas, didn’t suit up for the Longhorns in their annual trip to Morgantown during the 2021-22 season. After exchanging his burnt orange for Old Gold and Blue, Mitchell was sidelined for much of the preseason due to a foot injury, and experienced both of West Virginia’s tune-up games from the bench.
The 6-foot-9 forward made his Mountaineer debut Monday evening and scored 13 points despite having very limited experienced playing with his new teammates.
“I mean, I actually haven’t been through a full practice yet,” Mitchell said. “(Sunday) was probably my first actually legit [practice, where] I was in there from start to finish. But, before that, I was in there for bits and pieces, but yesterday I felt good being able to go the whole time with the guys.”
Mitchell was held to three points on 1-of-2 shooting in the first half. He played four minutes of action before halftime thanks, in part, to him collecting two early fouls in his first college basketball game since Feb. 12.
“I didn’t particularly want to play him a lot at once, that’s why I took him out and put him back in,” said Hall of Fame head coach Bob Huggins. “He needs it. He needs to get in shape, and he needs to get back in the flow of things. But he’s a talented guy.”
Mitchell showed off his talents in the second half.
The Pittsburgh native tallied 10 points after halftime, knocking down a three-pointer and powering home a one-handed put-back slam dunk. He then drew an offensive foul against the Mount St. Mary’s ballhandler immediately following his first dunk as a Mountaineer.
“He’s a hooper,” said Emmitt Matthews Jr. “This is not a regular basketball player, this is a hooper. OK? So, I think the one thing about him is, me personally, I think you could throw him anywhere on the floor.”
Matthews, who scored a team-high 15 points in his return to the Mountaineers, complimented Mitchell’s abilities with his back to the basket.
“He was really all over the place on offense, wherever you just put him, he’ll just do his job,” added Matthews. “As for me just being comfortable with him out there, it’s honestly like having another version of myself. … He adds a lot, a lot of dimension to our game.”
Matthews and Mitchell are two of the nine players on this year’s roster who did not play for Bob Huggins last season. Mitchell is now playing for his third collegiate program, after previous stops at UMass and Texas.
He not only had a change in area codes to deal with in the offseason but a foot injury, as well.
“[The] preseason has been a journey, to say the least,” said Mitchell. “I just kind of had to do things day by day. I spent a lot of time with (strength and conditioning coach) Shaun Brown. He did an excellent job keeping me in decent shape as much as he could.”
Mitchell added that while he was unable to work on his lower body much during the rehabilitation process, he was able to focus on building his upper-body strength. He described himself as being back on the court “a little bit ahead of time.”
Despite not being able to go through the full rigors of a Huggins-led practice until Sunday, the forward stayed busy, never allowing a basketball to be out of reach.
“He’s going to get a lot better,” said Huggins. “He has gone in and gotten shots in. I mean, he’s really done a good job of getting shots up. He’s been very, very diligent with his rehab. I think he’s going to get a lot better.”
Asked how close he is to being in game shape, Mitchell didn’t have a direct answer. He noted that it takes playing in games to achieve being in game shape.
“I think it will just come with time, I’m not far though,” Mitchell added. “I’m nowhere near when I thought I’d be.”