I have not seen Tony Mitchell play a second of basketball, nor am I at liberty to question his stature as one of America's top recruits.
But let's assume for a second that Mitchell—a 6'8", 220-pound forward from Dallas who is currently ranked by Rivals.com as the 15th-best prep player in the country—is every bit as good as the recruiting services and crystal balls say he is and can be at the college level.
What does his recent pledge do for the immediate future of the Missouri Tigers program? For that matter, what impact will his decision to come to Columbia have on future recruiting and head coach Mike Anderson's quest to sustain success and turn MU into a national power?
If you believe the hype—in other words, trust the rankings—then it means an awful lot.
A five-star prospect and McDonald's All-American candidate, Mitchell is arguably one of the most heralded recruits ever to enter the MU program. In the past 15 years, Mitchell is MU's highest-rated recruit, surpassing former forward Linas Kleiza, who was rated as the nation's 17th-best player in 2003.
If nothing else, Mitchell should provide the Tigers with a needed athletic presence and powerful force up front, as well as on the perimeter, when he arrives on campus sometime next summer. More specifically, he'll undoubtedly become part of the equation Missouri is attempting to piece together to help fill the frontcourt void left by former players DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons.
As part of MU's 2010 class, which already includes coveted point guard Phil Pressey and three-star forward Kadeem Green , Mitchell is yet another indicator that Anderson is building something special in Columbia, a basketball-rich town that was starved for success on the hardwood prior to his arrival.
In just his fourth season, Anderson, who inherited the mess left behind by his predecessor, Quin Snyder, continues to bring in talented players from all corners of the college basketball landscape.
And now, with a platform of success to work with—the foundation of which was constructed during last season's school-record 31 wins and run to the Elite Eight—Anderson is able to target recruits of Mitchell's caliber as a means to continue that success.
And the trickle-down effect produced by Mitchell's decision, which speaks to the notion of good players wanting to play with other good players, may be significant in regards to Anderson's future recruiting efforts.
Of the first 10 players listed on Rivals.com's Top 150 for 2011, two are reported as to having expressed interest in Missouri, including St. Louis (Chaminade High) point guard Bradley Beal , who is considered the seventh-best player in the class.
Recruited by a host of schools that included Georgetown, Marquette, and Cincinnati, Mitchell officially gave the Tigers his verbal commitment following his visit to Columbia over the weekend. For him, it wasn't so much about the sport as it was the unity of the MU program.
"As soon as I stepped on campus, it was a family atmosphere," Mitchell told Rivals.com. "The team really embraced me. This is more than just about basketball, it's more about my future."
Mitchell attended MU's final exhibition game against Northwest Missouri State Friday evening, but he left Columbia giving Anderson and the Tigers nothing more than his verbal commitment, which is non-binding. However, Missouri's official athletics web site reported late Tuesday that Mitchell has indeed signed his official letter of intent, becoming the fourth member of the 2010 class.
Had Mitchell not signed before the Nov. 18 deadline, which ends the early signing period, he would have been forced to wait until early April—a scenario that potentially could have reopened his recruitment.
On Tuesday, Anderson spoke about the newest member of his program.
"Tony is excited to be a Missouri Tiger and we are elated that he is joining our family," Anderson said. "Tony is one of the best forwards in the country and he certainly fits the Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball. He is very versatile, skilled, has toughness and great instincts for the game.
"He's an elite athlete who loves to win. And as talented as Tony is, he's an even better person."
Mitchell, who is considered the No. 2 prospect in the state of Texas, joins Pressey (the third-best player in Texas), Green, and Columbia native Rick Kreklow as part of a class that is quickly becoming one of the finest in the country.
For those living under a rock, the Tigers begin their 2009-10 season against Tennessee-Martin in a matter of minutes. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. central time. The Tigers are 4-0 all-time against the Skyhawks, including a 86-63 win in the last meeting in 2001.
Photo credit: Columbia Daily Tribune