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January 11, 2013Life is about relationships and presence is an integral component necessary to cultivating a successful one, which Jeff Battle clearly understood and Shelton Mitchell and his family noticed during his recruitment and is one of the primary reasons he committed to Wake Forest Friday, Jan. 4.
The Wake Forest assistant coach began showing interest in the 6-foot-3 and 170-pound junior point guard during his freshman year at Waxhaw (NC) Cuthbertson.
Mitchell's mother April Mitchell said Battle has been a constant throughout the entire recruiting process; not exclusively from the basketball side, but the academic angle too.
"He introduced us early on into their academic advisor and director," April Mitchell said. "One of the things that we appreciate about Coach Battle is he said even if he decides not to attend Wake Forest we want to make sure that he's prepared academically and that he's taking his corps classes and that he's working on the things he needs to academically, so that he's strong and ready to play at the college level as well."
"We had a really good relationship with Coach Battle from the very beginning, because he's been very helpful and very supportive as well."
The Mitchell Family made its first trip to Wake on a Saturday last summer when it was not as lively as it gets during the school year when students are frolicking about.
"The first time we went we thought it was really, really impressive," April Mitchell said. "Again, Coach Battle, one of the attributes that we like about him he's always very honest. And so he told us when we came the campus isn't really going to be a true portrayal of Wake Forest culture and atmosphere, but hopefully you can get a feel for it. The whole, entire coaching staff took the time to meet with us, show us around the campus, show us around the facility as well as the academics director took time out of her weekend to meet with us too and again this just wasn't Coach Battle this was Coach [Jeff] Bzdelik's entire coaching staff; very courteous, very generous as far as their time from the very beginning."
"And they stressed academics, which is key for my husband and I. We want to make sure he attended a university that was going to prepare him again; not just with basketball, but with a great college education degree and have a tremendous support system and it just seems as though Wake Forest has that."
She added from a mother's perspective he earned the right to go wherever he wanted, but in the back of her mind she feared he would go to the West Coast, which is where they were before moving to the Charlotte area.
"He basically just told us that he felt as though Wake Forest had a good, strong family feel as well and that they would be able to support him there and then obviously his dad, myself and his sister we're only a couple of hours away," April Mitchell said.
"It's always been our dream to see him play at the collegiate level, so now we can do that or if he needs us in a pinch we can still be there. He's far enough away, but then close enough to get to. We're thrilled. We're completely ecstatic about it."
Mitchell told reporters he was not close to choosing a college following a first-round 61-59 overtime loss to Hampton (Va.) in the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational at Raleigh (NC) Needham B. Broughton High School Thursday, Dec. 27.
"I wouldn't say I was holding back I just wasn't completely telling my whole side," Mitchell said. "I just wanted to kind of keep it to myself. I didn't want anybody else knowing. I was basically keeping it between me and my family."
He began to lean toward Wake Forest a couple of months ago. His mother, who calls him by his middle name Malik, because he is a junior and shares his father's name, said he wanted to sleep on it and give it a little more time.
"Thursday night [Jan. 3] he came to us and said I think I'm ready," April Mitchell said. "Actually we were in bed asleep. He went to his sister's room first and then they both came in. We obviously thought something was wrong, because it was late at night and he said I think I'm ready and we said okay, you know it's late. For what? And he said I'm ready to commit to Wake. We instantly woke up. We said okay, we're not shocked obviously by this. Are you sure? And he said you know I am. I'm just ready for this to happen. I know Wake is the best fit for me. Academically this is a program where I can grow [and] I can develop. I can help them from the very beginning, and I think I can turn this around."
"And he said a degree from Wake and he said Mom and we said say no more, you don't have to sell us. We already know, so that was Thursday night. We got up [Friday morning, Jan. 4] and he said I'm ready to call and let Coach Battle know, but obviously he had to go to class [and] Coach Battle was probably busy with his work on his schedule, so we didn't actually talk to Coach Battle until after his game Friday night."
If Battle was not in a public place when they finally got ahold of him he would have screamed at the top of his lungs out of joy.
"I don't really know if Coach Battle knew that was coming or not when he said Coach I've decided I want to attend Wake, I want to go to Wake, I want to be a Deacon," April Mitchell said. "They were actually, the team and Coach Battle was actually either on the way to a restaurant or they were at Ruth's Chris [Steak House] or something like that, so he couldn't really ride all out like he wanted to, but he called me back after he talked to my son and he said I don't think I'm going to be able to sleep tonight, because this is the best, best news that you can give me."
She added her son is very decisive, and when he makes up his mind he has no regrets and does not look back.
"I'm not a guy that jumps back and forth from decisions," Mitchell said. "Once I make up my mind that's basically it. Basically when I make up my mind there's no going back. Unless something crazy happens then yeah I will be [committed to Wake]."
"I talked to Codi [Miller-McIntyre], C.J. [Harris] and Travis [McKie] and they all said congrats. They're [Wake's coaches] just happy. They're welcoming me into the family and so are the players."
Mitchell's commitment is reciprocated by Battle, who has for a long time watched and pursued the 2014 North Carolina prospect.
"Even during the summer when we would play at tournaments even for those games that were way out we could turn around and somewhere we would see Coach Battle and a member of the Wake coaching staff," April Mitchell said. "He was a constant figure always there supporting him."
"Talking about my son is one of my favorite subjects obviously and his dad's too, but to hear that someone else holds the same highest regard for your child means a lot. My husband and myself feel that it's genuine. It truly is."
Mitchell added his relationship with Battle means very much to him, but his decision also came down to the atmosphere Wake Forest offers and the opportunity to make an immediate impact for the Demon Deacons.
"I'm a big family guy and they can see me play and I won't be too far away from home and Winston's a great city and I like it down here," Mitchell said.
Mitchell, who is rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals.com, understands how to use his body to his advantage, is crafty offensively, can get into the lane and to the rim effortlessly, has a smooth shooter's touch from anywhere on the floor, a nice handle on the ball, strong court-awareness and brings a calming presence and leadership to the players around him.
He needs to improve his quickness and ability to stay in front of faster guards on the defensive end. Mitchell said Bzdelik and Battle's expectations for him are to work on the weaknesses of his game and to get stronger, so he can contribute right away.
However, those weaknesses are often overshadowed by his strengths. Mitchell has spurred Cuthbertson to a 13-1 start with an average 21.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
He averaged 23.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.7 steals to lead Cuthbertson to a state championship appearance and a 31-2 finish last season.
Wake Forest sets the bar high for its point guards, a pantheon that features past greats from the likes of Randolph Childress to Chris Paul. Mitchell, who is the highest touted recruit during Bzdelik's head-coaching tenure, may be the next to join the annals of fabulous floor generals to don the Black and Gold.
"I have the confidence that I can be that guy, but I'm not going to say that if they had me they would be doing a lot better," Mitchell said. "I'm not going to say that, but I do have the confidence and believe that I can help the team."
Mitchell displayed that confidence combined with an elite skillset when he faced 2013 NC State signee Anthony Barber by outscoring the five-star recruit 30-26 last month.
The Mitchell Family plans to make a return trip to Winston-Salem Saturday, Jan. 12 to watch the Deacs play Boston College.