BYU prospect Bruce Mitchell is the 265-pound heart of South Summit’s basketball team
During South Summit High School basketball games, untrained ears might hear a resounding “boo” from the Wildcats’ student section.
It’s not a jeer, though. The students are calling out “Bruuuuce,” when Bruce Mitchell, the Wildcats’ beloved senior center, makes his presence known.
Standing at 6 foot 5 inches and weighing 265 pounds, Mitchell looks more the part of a defense tackle than a basketball player.
And his appearance doesn’t deceive – he took the gridiron this fall as an integral part of the Wildcats’ powerhouse football program. And next year, he’s set to take his skills to Provo with Brigham Young University, which offered him a football scholarship this summer.
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“He eats tractors for breakfast,” South Summit basketball coach Dusty Hatch quipped after the Wildcats’ defeated North Summit 81-59 on Dec. 12.
Mitchell managed to score 11 points on the Braves in the third quarter, even though he played less than half the game because of foul trouble and the fact that South Summit built a sizable lead. His scoring included a three-pointer that, taken with the confidence of an outside man, brought the South Summit bench to its feet.
“He has such a nice shot,” Hatch said. “I actually think he has a better shot from 15 feet out than 15 feet and in.
“The team loves it and the fans think it’s great,” Hatch said of the big man’s three-pointers. “But he does it all the time in practice.”
This season, Mitchell has averaged a little more than four points per game, though in the past he has gone on hot streaks like a clutch performance the playoff game against Emory last season where he scored 23 points and pulled down seven rebounds, helping South Summit reach the second round of the postseason.
He achieved that by being a big, physical player, but also through surprising dexterity. The big man is capable of deceiving opponents with a deft fake shot that allows him to slip past them to the rim, and has solid foot skills.
“He’s a monster, but what finesse, right?” Hatch said.
Jake Rydalch, a senior forward, said Mitchell has “the footwork of a guard.”
Mitchell developed those skills after picking up the game from his older brother, Bonner, who is seven years older and also played basketball for Hatch.
“He’s a big role model and I just did what he did,” Mitchell said. “He’s my best friend, and I just look up to him.”
After picking up basketball around age 8, Mitchell started playing for the Junior Jazz youth league.
“It’s all been uphill from there,” Mitchell said.
He said he likes to play a physical game and use his size to his advantage, but he also contributes to the team’s culture.
Sitting on the bench, Bruce can be seen talking to coaches and players during the game, clearly comfortable with his role and his fellow Wildcats.
“He’s the best teammate,” Hatch said. “He’s a glue guy. In the locker room, he’s vocal, he’s encouraging – even when he’s in foul trouble. He just wants to win and he wants his teammates to be successful and that’s contagious amongst our team. Our team is catching onto that and it’s so fun to coach.”
Mitchell is also one of the team’s most experienced players, one of a trio of returning varsity senior starters alongside guards Jared Dansie and Kael Atkinson.
“We’ve been playing together since seventh grade – them before that,” Dansie said of Mitchell and Atkinson.
Mitchell is excited to play for BYU – which he described as a dream scenario – but for now, he’s enjoying the South Summit crowd’s call of “Bruuuce.”
“It’s just awesome to see how far we’ve come,” he said of his Wildcats teammates. “And it’s awesome to be here with my best friends.”
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.