After he played at Louisville, I’ll admit Donovan Mitchell wasn’t my favorite player. He was always getting at it with Grayson. He played for Rick Pitino, for goodness’ sake, whom I most certainly did not care for. I feel bad about that now because as I’ve seen him grow in the NBA, the ESPY award winner (Breakthrough Athlete of the Year) is a really nice guy. Now, that’s been validated by his mutual respect and friendship with new teammate Grayson Allen. Grayson, one of my personal favorite Duke players ever, who’s now gone from college basketball senior veteran to NBA rookie, has a bit to learn this season and Mitchell, who is entering his second season, will be a good mentor.
Mitchell made most of his impact at Louisville during his breakout sophomore season in 2017 when Grayson was a junior. As you can see in the video above, things got a little scrappy between the two of them, but it all worked out in the end.
There was this incident, among others. Duke and Louisville split their games during that year, one of which was during the 2017 ACC Tournament Quarterfinals at the Barclays Center, a tournament which Duke would go on to win. The quarterfinal game was tight and emotions ran high, so Allen and Mitchell, both central figures for their respective teams, crossed hairs and defended each other at different times during the game. After the 2017 season, Mitchell declared for the NBA Draft while Grayson returned to Duke for his senior season. Mitchell was runner-up for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and lost to only Ben Simmons of the 76ers. He won the ESPYs Award for Breakthrough Athlete of the Year.
Despite their college rivalry, Mitchell attended Grayson’s workout for the Jazz and was visibly impressed.
But the one thing about Grayson is I always respected him. When people ask me who the toughest guy I had to go against in college basketball, it’s him. It’s hard when you have all the negative connotations with your name, especially in college. You see it on ESPN and then you’ve got to go to class and you’ve got to walk and see everybody on campus—and you still get 30 points a game? That’s impressive to me. That’s where he got my respect. After that game my sophomore year, I told him how much I respected him.
– Donovan Mitchell
It was later revealed that Mitchell contacted Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey with a text saying “Grayson at 21?”, and was vocal in his support of Grayson. Obviously, the Jazz trusted their star player and selected Grayson at #21.
It was one of the best moments in the draft when Donovan Mitchell surprised Grayson during his interview.
While Grayson is older than Mitchell in age, he does not have any NBA experience. It seems as though Mitchell will be a good mentor for Grayson whilst he adapts into the NBA life. In the big leagues, chemistry is rare. When you have chemistry like this between two very talented players, it can mean something special for a team that already advanced to the second round of the playoffs last year. The Jazz were bounced by the Houston Rockets last year.
He’s just giving me some tips for Summer League, an idea of what to expect with the pace of it, all sorts of stuff. He had a pretty good Summer League last year, so he knows what he’s talking about.
– Grayson Allen on Donovan Mitchell
Bleed blue, Duke fans. I have a LOT of guys on a lot of teams to follow in the NBA this year, but it’s never a burden to see these guys grow and progress.