Mitchell Settling In As Starter

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Akil Mitchell .

When senior center Assane Sene suffered an ankle fracture against Georgia Tech last month, sophomore Akil Mitchell immediately inherited an important role for the UVa men’s basketball team. Mitchell entered the starting lineup for the past six games in Sene’s absence. In this week’s 68-44 victory against Wake Forest, Mitchell logged career-high numbers in points (10) and assists (4) to go with 6 rebounds and 1 steal.

Perhaps more importantly, Mitchell has shown improvement during each outing as a starter. The forward appears to be more assertive on offense where he’s getting a few lost post touches each game. Certainly replacing the 7’0″ Sene’s defensive productivity and activity with a similar style isn’t likely for the 6’8″ Mitchell, but he seems to be settling in to the Pack-Line more cohesively now as well. Mitchell won’t block or alter shots as frequently as Sene, but his positioning and timing continues to develop.

“Defensively I feel a lot more comfortable,” Mitchell said. “I’m still feeling my way into the offense a little bit, but I feel a lot more comfortable and I feel like I can be a leader out there on the defensive end. I feel like I’m starting to assert myself on the defensive end.”

The key matchup? Entering Saturday’s matchup with North Carolina, it’s obvious that Virginia will have its hands full with the Tar Heels’ front court. UNC, after all, has a clear height advantage with Tyler Zeller (7’0″), John Henson (6’11”), and James McAdoo (6’9″) manning the paint area. The key matchup from that group may be Henson.

Henson averages 14.2 points and 10.3 rebounds in 28.9 minutes of play. Henson’s length and ability to play a face-up game could challenge UVa’s Pack-Line defense. As dissected in this Sabre.com article,

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