Steffon Mitchell couldn't believe when the Big Ten/ACC Challenge schedule revealed that he'd be returning home with Boston College his senior year to play the Gophers again.
What were the odds that an underrecruited kid from Shakopee who left Minnesota for prep school would end up playing in the ACC -- let alone get to face the Gophers twice?
Mitchell thought he was fortunate enough as a sophomore starting forward two years ago to upset the Gophers 68-56 in Boston.
"It meant a lot," Mitchell told the Star Tribune this week. "Every win we get is a big win, but it was nice to get that win. For me being from Minnesota, it's always nice to beat the hometown team."
The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Mitchell proved in three years at Boston College that he belongs at the major conference level. He was the first player in school history to be named to the All-ACC defensive team last season after leading the league in steals (2.3) and finishing fifth in rebounding (8.5). After receiving several votes for ACC defensive player of the year as a junior, Mitchell's making his case again by averaging 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks this season.
"I loved that I came to Boston College," Mitchell said. "Great group of coaches. I've had some great teammates that are playing in the NBA. The ACC is such a great basketball conference. If you prove you can play here, you can play anywhere."
Mitchell still remembers when he had no power conference offers before playing a year at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas in 2017. He finished his high school career as Shakopee's all-time leader in scoring and rebounding.
Richard Pitino and the Gophers had no interest. But before joining Pitino's staff, Kyle Lindsted recruited Mitchell at Wichita State. Lindsted also helped Mitchell get into Sunrise Christian.
"Pitino never recruited me," Mitchell said. "He made a choice that he thought that he had better options on the table than me."
It was obvious the first game against the Gophers meant a little bit extra. Mitchell grabbed 13 rebounds. He helped to slow down the U's talented frontcourt tandem of Jordan Murphy and Daniel Oturu.
Mitchell grew up following and learning from former Shakopee star Jamal Abu-Shamala, who played for the Gophers from 2005-09.
When BC's rematch with the Gophers was scheduled in the fall, Mitchell was excited for his Minnesota family to cheer him on at the Barn. The state's COVID-19 guidelines changed to not allow any fans, though. That meant Mitchell's Shakopee contingent couldn't be there Tuesday.
"It would've been a different experience if I could've come to Minnesota this time with everybody being able to watch in the stands," Mitchell said. "I have a good deal of support in Minnesota."