After frustrating Emoni Bates, 2022 prospect Dillon Mitchell earns Ohio State offer

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Canterbury High School's Adedola Adebayo (3) defends  Bishop McLaughlin's Dillon Mitchell (23) during the Class 3A Region 2 championship basketball game in Fort Myers on Friday, Feb.26, 2021.

The chance to go against the top player in the nation was an opportunity Dillon Mitchell wanted.

Last weekend, while playing in the Midwest Mania AAU event in Indianapolis, he got his chance. A 6-8, 180-pound wing from Spring Hill (Florida) Bishop McLaughlin Catholic, Mitchell’s Each 1 Teach 1 team drew a matchup with Emoni Bates, the top player in the 2022 class. Talking with his own coaches before the game, Mitchell had a clear goal for the game – and it wasn’t to outscore Bates.

“The main thing was defense,” Mitchell said. “We know Emoni likes to go for 30 and 40 some games. I knew if we played some defense, locked up, communicated and kept our head in the game on the defensive game that we would get the win and that’s really what we did.”

Mitchell limited Bates to less than 20 points in the game. Rivals.com named him the lockdown defender of the tournament, a weekend that has helped further elevate his recruiting status and put him in the national spotlight. Listed as a three-star small forward prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Mitchell is in line for a bump when those rankings for the 2022 class are updated.

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Not that he was worried about that before, or after, the tournament.

“My mindset going into that game was to block out all the outside stuff,” Mitchell said. “Everybody knows who he is, but I don’t really care about none of that stuff. I just go out and do my job and guard whoever I’ve gotta guard and do whatever to get the win.”

The weekend also led to a new scholarship offer for Mitchell, who is AAU teammates with Bruce Thornton, a four-star point guard prospect from Alpharetta (Georgia) Milton and a verbal commitment to Ohio State.

“That’s my guy,” Mitchell said. “I love playing with him. He can go get a bucket, but the thing I love about Bruce, he’s a pass-first point guard. He’s truly a dream point guard for any college. He can pass first, go get a bucket, defends, plays hard, hustles.”

The two now have the opportunity to play together at the next level after Ohio State offered him a scholarship during the week, pushing his number of offers to nearly a dozen. It came on a Zoom call with coach Chris Holtmann and assistants Jake Diebler (his primary recruiter) and Ryan Pedon, and the offer caught Mitchell by surprise.

“I talked to them and felt like if I kept working I could get any school to be on the lookout for me, but hearing from them was real cool,” he said. “When they first contacted me I was real excited because my mom’s from Ohio, I’ve got family in Ohio, I’ve been watching Ohio State since I was a kid. I’ve got Ohio State pillows on my bed. When they decided to offer me it was all smiles. Me and my mom, my dad, we were all real happy.”

Mitchell’s mother was raised in Akron before moving when she was a teenager, he said, and he still has aunts and cousins in Ohio. Houston, Penn State and Georgia had also recently offered before Ohio State.

“They really started contacting me a couple weeks ago,” he said of the Buckeyes. “They were going to be watching all the games and they loved what they’ve seen from me. They think I’d fit real well in their team and they think I’d be a great fit for them.”

In his Twitter bio, Mitchell describes himself as a “guard/forward” despite his height. As a youngster, Mitchell said, he was always tall but had coaches who encouraged him to work on his ball handling and perimeter skills in case he stopped growing. Now, that’s enabled him to become a versatile defender who college coaches tell him could guard four or five positions at the next level.

With the recruiting dead period set to expire this summer, Mitchell said he’s looking forward to planning visits and getting to see schools that are recruiting him before thinking about picking a school. Among his top criteria for picking a school: building strong relationships with the coaching staff.

To that end, Mitchell said his conversations with Ohio State – and Diebler in particular – have had a slightly different tone than with other schools.

“The Ohio State coaches are real fun on the Zoom,” he said. “They were laughing and making jokes and stuff. They were real fun to talk to. We’re definitely going to be able to build a real good relationship.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy