Calipari Believes Tre Mitchell One of Best Transfers in College Basketball


John Calipari has a question that he wishes someone could answer for him.

“Why isn’t the country talking about Tre (Mitchell) as one of the top transfers (in the country). Is that stunning (that they are not)?” asked Calipari. “Who settles us down? Who impacts this team every game? He does.

“Without him … he talks to all these young guys. If he is not one of the top five or top three transfers, I got to see. I am talking about making an impact on a team. He impacts our team.”

Mitchell started his collegiate career at Mass before transferring to Texas for his junior year. He moved on to West Virginia as a senior and planned to play another season with the Mountaineers before then coach Bob Huggins stepped down after a DUI arrest.

“I was there when it was all happening,” Mitchell said. “I had to make a selfish decision about what was best for me. I really can’t knock my experience there at all but the dude I came to play for was no longer there.”

That brought the 6-8 Mitchell to Kentucky with Huggins’ blessing.

“I have talked to him (Huggins) a couple of times. He completely supported my decision (to come to UK). Even before I made my decision I went to his house to talk to him about it before it got on social media (about the transfer). There was nothing but support from him. He understood the circumstance. I really think Hugs is a standup guy to be honest.”

Mitchell already had a connection at Kentucky because UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua had recruited him out of Woodstock Academy (Conn.) for Illinois and then each time he had previously transferred.

“Every single time I have been out there and been available he has recruited me. He had tried,” Mitchell laughed and said.  “Sometimes things just shake down differently. For me, the preexisting relationships were not going to determine where I was going. I wanted to go to a place that was a good fit for me and what I was trying to do. That turned out to be Kentucky this time.”

Mitchell had followed Kentucky basketball since he was about 10 years old. He said he knew Calipari “because he is Cal” and young players knew his success rate.

“I always wanted to be a part of the Big Blue Nation. It has been a dream of mine since I was a kid,” he said. “I hadn’t really had a real conversation with Cal until I came on my visit here. He had some preexisting relationships with my family before me. I am not sure what they got into back then but he’s been great.”

Former UK star DeMarcus Cousins was part of Calipari’s first recruiting class at UK in 2009 and helped change the way Mitchell approached basketball.

“He was not a guy I would say I emulated but he opened my understanding of the game a little bit,” Mitchell said about Cousins. “I was always bigger than everybody and was always at the 5 (center). People back then just said you are a 5 and you have to stay inside the paint, set ball screens and roll to the basket.

“Seeing DeMarcus play, he was the biggest dude on the court and he was out there doing everything so why can’t I. He changed how I looked at the game.”

Mitchell has to bring that perspective to his younger teammates after their unexpected 80-73 loss to UNC-Wilmington last week.

“We’re human. We’re not going to be perfect,” he said after the loss. “We’re going to have nights like tonight. It’s whether we can have the maturity level to not get super down on ourselves and to take a look at the tape and film.

“I think we know in our heads what we did wrong. But when you really look at it on film, you’re able to analyze it. It clicks in your head. But as a leader, nothing changes from my perspective. I have to come into practice and push these dudes and not let the energy get low.”

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