Martice Mitchell is trying to make the most out of his long days at home in Chicago this spring. School is different now. Workouts are different now. Everything is different.
Senior year for the Gophers' four-star Chicago Heights Bloom forward will end with online classes, like students everywhere during the coronavirus pandemic.
But besides home schooling and lifting weights in his bedroom, the 6-foot-10 Mitchell spends at least an hour each day doing virtual ball-handling sessions with his trainer and AAU coach. He's trying to stay as prepared as he can to when he joins the Gophers basketball team at some point this summer.
In a recent chat with the Star Tribune, Mitchell talked about training at home, his excitement to play in Richard Pitino’s system, teaming up with fellow recruit Jamal Mashburn Jr. and more.
Q: How do you see yourself fitting in Pitino’s system with the Gophers next season?
A: I feel like I will fit in really well seeing that Coach Pitino is doing well with athletic and more versatile players. They got Liam [Robbins] from Drake, and he already had [Isaiah Ihnen] and other players like that. I feel like we have a lot of long, versatile players who can be on the floor.
Q: Pitino said the biggest priority for you is gaining weight. What are your thoughts on that?
A: I don’t have a goal as far as weight. I just want to be a lot stronger than if I would be just lifting at home. With season not going on and me being at home, I’m not as prepared as I can be. So, I’m just trying to use the next couple months to get as strong as I possibly can before I get on campus. I don’t really have a goal for the weight yet. I’m 197 right now.
Q: What skills have you been working on to improve going into your freshman year?
A: It’s really just working on my ball handling. I’m a really good shooter. I think that is something people are going to see. I felt like people were starting to see that last year that I could shoot the ball. It’s just something that most people at 6-9, 6-10 can’t really do. Being able to shoot and adding the handles is one thing I’ve been working on since the beginning of the season. I can handle the ball don’t get me wrong, but I want to get to where not even guards can take it from me.
Q: How have you been communicating with the Gophers this spring?
A: I Face Time with Coach Pitino all of the time. And I talk to the rest of the coaching staff, too. We really just check up on each other. They’ve been sending me some of the plays on offense we’re going to run. So, I’ve been studying those. Nobody knows when we’ll be able to be on campus. We had dates before the virus started [to arrive in June], but now after the virus we don’t know when it’s going to be Ok for people to be outside.
Q: Have you been chatting a lot with Mashburn (fellow member of Gophers’ 2020 recruiting class)?
A: I talked to Jamal Mashburn on Instagram all of the time. We’re really two underrated four-star recruits. So, we want to go to Minnesota and do something big. Prove something to people. I think Jamal is a real tough guard. Those are the kind of guards I like to play with, and I had on my high school team. He’s a real tough guard with a high [basketball] IQ. He has a good feel for the game. Those are the guys I like a lot play with. I really like to play with guards who can dish the ball, drive into the lane and create contact. Not guys who try to do fancy layups.
Q: What type of athletic training have you been able to do from home during this pandemic?
A: I’ve got a weight bench, and I have a curl bar in my room. I’ve been using those. I’ve been jogging on the track to get my cardio work done. Or I’ll run around my neighborhood. I do ball-handling drills on FaceTime with my trainer (Young and Reckless Basketball founder and AAU coach Aubrey DeNard).
Q: What has it been like trying to finish your classes online to end your senior year?
A: We’re just finishing the year on our laptops. If you don’t have a laptop you got a big packet to finish all of your classes. I had a Chromebook, so I just use my Chromebook as my laptop and home computer. I wouldn’t say that’s been easy. It’s been Ok. We’ve been getting more work than we usually do. That’s one thing that is not real cool (laughs).
Q: Bloom was one of the top teams in Illinois. How would you describe your final season?
A: I thought the season was OK. It was really fun most of the time. Not a lot of teams had the tools that we had. It could’ve been much better for me as an individual. But the goal was a high school state championship for the seniors. I just played my part and tried to help my team win the state championship. My role was to score when I can and help get rebounds. I also blocked shots.
Q: Your high school team relied a lot on you to protect the rim. Is defense where you can help right away with the Gophers?
A: I think it will really help me [blocking shots without fouling], because one thing they look for in college is not coming down to block shots with your arm. You have to keep it straight and try to go for blocks at the backboard. Learning to play like that will be an advantage for me at the collegiate level.
Q: Players 6-9 or taller more than ever are being asked to stretch the floor. Who do you watch and compare yourself to in the NBA?
A: There are a few players who I like to model my game around: Kevin Durant, Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum. It also used to be Marvin Bagley when I was trying to do things to help my team out in the post as well. They’re really the players I’ve tried to model my game after. I’ve been doing a lot of Jayson Tatum crossover moves lately.
Q: The Gophers assistant who recruited you was Rob Jeter, who left to be Western Illinois’ coach. How did you feel about his departure?
A: I talked to Coach Rob and to Coach Pitino about it. I was real understanding about it, and why he had to leave the team. They have passed me along to another assistant (he talks to strength and conditioning coach Steve Felde).