RED SPRINGS — During his recruiting process, Caleel Mitchell was tired of working out for schools, and having the sessions never amount to any talks of the Red Springs senior continuing his basketball career at that program.
Then Johnston Community College came into the picture.
After working out with the Jaguars on a visit, Mitchell’s dream of continuing his playing career was fulfilled when he was pulled aside after the workout by coach Jason Johnson.
“It was a relief,” Mitchell said. “I had to take a moment.
“I like the way they run their program. They like to work in the gym, and I like to work so that’s what caught my attention.”
On Monday, the media center at Red Springs High School was the only room in the building with students in attendance more than a week after classes let out as Mitchell signed his letter of intent in front of family, coaches and teammates and friends.
The leading scorer for the Red Devils this season, Mitchell averaged 14.5 points per game, along with three assists and more than two steals a game. He also drained 58 3-pointers, and shot 36 percent from distance to lead his team.
“I’m bringing energy, and of course I’m going to bring my shooting ability and scoring ability,” he said. “And I’ll bring some defense to the table.”
During the trying times of Mitchell’s recruiting process, Red Springs basketball coach Glenn Patterson was there trying to keep one of his senior leaders from a 17-9 campaign positive in finding his college home.
“I told him that it’s a process and every kid goes through it,” Patterson said. “He was going to those schools and I was getting the feedback. I just kept telling him to stay positive because there is a place for you.
“I think it is a great partnership between the two. He’s getting a great coach, and the coach is getting a great player.”
Mitchell joins fellow backcourt running mate Monte’ Wilkerson as the second basketball signee this season. Wilkerson signed with Marion Military Institute earlier this year.
Johnson, a native of Fayetteville and a Seventy-First High School graduate, said that Mitchell’s skill set fit what he was looking for with this incoming class.
“The kid is tough as nails and can really score the basketball,” he said. “That’s something we lacked last year, even though we had a kid average 17 points per game. Caleel’s a little more diverse scorer than the kid we had last year.”
Finding Mitchell late in the year was an unexpected godsend for Johnson.
“When you get to this point in the year, you get emails, texts and calls from coaches, and usually the kids aren’t at a level of a Caleel Mitchell,” Johnson said. “If they are, they usually have a lot of baggage. Caleel is a great kid and we are excited with how he fits into the program.”
Growing up, Mitchell saw himself going to college to be an athlete, but his vision of what sport he wanted to play changed in recent years.
“I thought I would be going to school to play football because I played football before I started basketball,” Mitchell said. “When I got to high school, I was still little so I decided to go for basketball.”
Johnston Community College finished 6-24 last season, and its three leading scorers off that team have graduated.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.