An EVT roundtable discussion on Matt Mitchel and Jordan Schakel. The two former SDSU Aztecs basketball players left a lasting impression on the program. Here are some thoughts from our coverage team.
Four years, a couple of Mountain West Championships, a couple of NCAA tournament appearances, and endless memories in San Diego State uniforms.
Their jerseys will hang at Viejas Arena forever, and deservedly so. These two individuals have provided Aztec fans, coaches, and media with ample memories that will last forever, and they should get a long, hard look at the NBA level after much success with the Aztecs.
The good news is that Trey Pulliam and Joshua Tomaic announced they are returning to San Diego State for the 2021-2022 season, giving coach Brian Dutcher some much-needed veteran leadership after losing his two four-year senior stars.
Trey Pulliam and Joshua Tomaic announced their return to SDSU. Hear from each of them as they describe the impact the other will have next season for the Aztecs. pic.twitter.com/EQxo6uKhxj
— Paul Garrison (@PadreDeCuatro) April 13, 2021
What skills does Matt Mitchell possess that will translate to the NBA?
Andre- Mitchell’s skill that will translate to the NBA is his methodical post-up game. While Matt is only 6-foot-6, he has been able to post up over the past four years, using his strength to back down Mountain West defenders and either shoot over them or draw fouls. He does not possess one elite offensive skill, but he has a great understanding of how to attack defender’s weaknesses in the post and is good enough at all three scoring levels to score in the NBA.
Paul- Mitchell’s best quality is he possesses the size to guard small forwards at the next level. Think Kawhi, Paul George, Lebron James. They all are massive human beings. Mitchell is cut from that cloth and has improved a defender each year at State. He frequently took the challenge of guarding the opponent’s best player. His role in the NBA early in his career will be as a three and D wing, a role he can play immediately.
Erwin- Mitchell is best at his down in the paint play and creating his own shot. While he slimmed down over the years, he’s been able to back down and score over smaller guys who can’t defend that play. At the next level, that skill is rare, so I imagine whichever team decides to further develop him to a place where he can get to the basket consistently.
Tron- Mitchell is a three-level scorer who can create his own shot. His ability to go through or over any defender should still be available at the next level. He is also a solid defender and can defend multiple positions. He likely fits best as a small-ball forward off the bench who comes in and spaces the floor for others.
Matt- My name buddy! In all seriousness, Mitchell can score the ball at every level. He can drive, pull-up, catch and shoot, you name it.
Which plays will fans remember Mitchell for?
Andre- The play that Mitchell will likely always be remembered for is the fast-break one-handed dunk over a New Mexico defender in last year’s home game. The second moment would be his performance on Kawhi Leonard‘s jersey retirement night when the Aztecs were down at halftime to Utah State, and Mitchell scored 18 points in eight minutes in the second half to lead them back to victory.
I didn’t think there was any chance Matt Mitchell would dunk this. Sheesh. pic.twitter.com/jGHH7l4OrF
— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) February 12, 2020
Paul- The otherworldly performance Mitchell had against BYU this past season will be one of his more remembered games. His 35 point performance where he almost single-handedly led the Aztecs to victory will be recalled frequently because it occurred in a loss to BYU. Losses to BYU linger as long as Cougar players are old.
Erwin- Kawhi Leonard night where the younger kid from Riverside county showed out. Mitchell went 28 points, 4-of-6 from three-point land, and four rebounds. That night was special for Aztec fans to see Kawhi’s jersey retired and then to see the program’s future shine bright. *chefs kiss*
Tron- I’m sure most fans will remember his dunk at New Mexico his junior season. His three-point outburst against Utah State on Kawhi’s night will also be a favorite. One of my favorites that likely hasn’t been mentioned was when he used his signature spin move on Yoeli Childs and then flexed after finishing through contact.
Matt- His unworldly dunk against New Mexico is the easy answer. However, this putback slam against Cal Poly was my personal favorite.
OH MY GOODNESS MATT MITCHELL!
That's a bad man!
— Bally Sports San Diego (@BallySportsSD) December 29, 2019
What is Mitchell’s legacy on the program?
Andre – Mitchell’s legacy on the program is simple: winning at all costs and sacrifices. Mitchell came to San Diego State after de-committing from Cal State Fullerton to play on a deep roster. He never complained about whether he was starting or not or whether plays were being run for him. His focus was always on the team and helping the team win. In his four years, the Aztecs won two regular-season conference titles and two conference tournament titles. In addition, Aztec fans will always remember how Mitchell transformed his body in between his Sophomore and Junior seasons to become leaner and faster as his role increased.
Paul– Mitchell and Schakel’s legacy is the same. They were the players who bridged the gap between Steve Fisher and Brian Dutcher. As seamless as his move 18 inches into the head coaching chair has appeared, Dutcher frequently speaks of the learning curve he is still navigating. If not for Mitchell and Schakel, and their ability to be whatever the team needed to succeed, Dutcher may not have gotten his legs under him as a coach.
Top 5 career scorers in San Diego State’s Division I history:
1.) Brandon Heath (2,189 points)
2.) Michael Cage (1,846)
3.) Anthony Watson (1,735)
4.) Chase Tapley (1,526)
5.) Matt Mitchell (1,471) pic.twitter.com/7AS0K6N5X9
— Jon Schaeffer (@jonschaeffer) March 21, 2021
Erwin- On the brink, before we see the transfer portal bloom beyond this season, Mitchell might be one of the last Aztecs to start for four years. He’s seen what the program is capable of and has been a part of some amazing runs into the NCAA tournament. For the future, Mitchell has provided another path for players to transform the team and themselves.
Tron- Mitchell’s legacy is rooted in his will to win. His desire to do whatever it took. As Aztec fans, we all got really tired of hearing how Mitchell lost a lot of extra weight and started to take care of his body, but it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Losing weight is hard for many people, but Mitchell knew if he wanted to win, it had to be done. His will to win showed up on the court as well. The scoring outburst on Kawhi’s night was previously mentioned. The way he carried the team during the BYU game his senior season and scored a career-high 35 points to try to will the team to victory. The team didn’t win, but there was no question he did everything he could. He left it all on the floor. Now he’s already helping the team get its next stars as Matt Bradley said Mitchell played a big role in his commitment.
Matt- Mitchell will go down in Aztecs history as one of the best to ever sport the uniform- which is saying a lot. However, his legacy boils down to a few words: grit, grind, toughness, and leadership. When the Aztecs needed a bucket, Mitchell was there. When a teammate needed some help, Mitchell was there. In his final game as an Aztec, Mitchell was screaming in the huddle against Syracuse in pure frustration and passion. That’s the true definition of an Aztec leader.
What skills does Jordan Schakel possess that will translate to the NBA?
Andre- Schakel’s number one skill that will translate to the NBA is 3-point shooting, specifically in catch-and-shoot situations.
Paul- Schakel is going to continue to get better. He is still on campus, continuing to work out and get better. He is coachable, and if picked up by an NBA team, he will work to become whatever version of Jordan Schakel that team needs. More than his shooting, his work ethic is what will set him apart at the next level.
Erwin- Schakel is easily the catch-and-release guy. That’s what made him his mark at San Diego State, and at the next level, he can further develop that skill. He just needs to be consistent in big-time moments. See Syracuse game.
Tron- Shooting. Schakel is an elite shooter, and every team at every level would benefit from more shooting. The Warriors drafted Justinian Jessup in the second round for his shooting, so seeing Schakel get drafted wouldn’t surprise me at all. He also has an underrated basketball IQ.
Matt- Copy and paste from above. Schakel can shoot the lights out of the gym on any given night. He finished his Aztecs career with 42 percent shooting from beyond the arc, and that skill alone could give him some serious NBA consideration, especially with the state of the NBA today.
Which plays will fans remember Schakel for?
Andre- Schakel will be remembered most for the numerous 3-pointers he made over his four seasons at SDSU. His biggest performance was on the road at Arizona State in his senior season, where he led the Aztecs’ blowout victory with a career-high 25 points.
Jordan Schakel, have yourself a night!
No. 24 San Diego State is up comfortably on No. 23 Arizona State on the road.pic.twitter.com/QhouNojRMn
— Heat Check CBB (@HeatCheckCBB) December 11, 2020
Paul- There is a lot Schakel will be remembered for. DJ Gay and Jordan Schakel are the two names Aztecs fans can close their eyes and hear the Viejas Arena announcers call. He will be remembered for wrestling in the post his freshman season, his quick release, and the daggers he hit time and time again down the stretch of games.
Erwin- The growth of his shooting has shown, and his consistency over four years from deep will be remembered by most. Going into Arizona State this season and going 5-of-9 from the arc and scoring 25 will be memorable, especially going up against potential lottery picks across the court.
Tron- The play that sticks out the most to me happened during his senior season. I don’t remember what game it was. I want to say it was against Fresno St. The Aztecs were getting dominated on the boards. On the telecast, you could hear Coach Dutcher and Coach Velasquez yelling at the team and dropping some vulgar language (to say the least.) The plays immediately after the time out, Schakel got a defensive rebound and an offensive rebound. He was ready to play whatever role the team needed, and even more than his shooting, that intangible thing is what I’ll miss the most.
Matt- The entire game against Colorado State, seriously. Schakel’s huge three against New Mexico a couple of years back brings chills down my spine. However, Schakel and his unbelievable scoring output against the Rams in January is the easy choice. Oh, and the game against Arizona State.
Fresh off a career-high 28 points, Jordan Schakel joins us next on @XTRA1360.
— Jon Schaeffer (@jonschaeffer) January 5, 2021
What is Schakel’s legacy on the program?
Andre- Schakel’s legacy will be intertwined with Mitchell’s as they came in the same year and exhibited the same team-first, win at all costs mentality that led to four titles. Schakel’s improvement on his overall game will also stand out, as he developed from a strictly catch and shoot player in his freshman year to a diverse, all-around offensive and defensive player by the time he completed his senior season.
Paul- See above with Mitchell’s legacy.
Erwin – Schakel is more of those Fisher/Dutcher dudes where they just went under the radar for many, but given a chance, they shine. He’s proven himself beyond the arc and to succeed at the next level. He’s got the tools to do so.
Tron– Schakel’s legacy will be one of work ethic. He didn’t play all that much as a freshman but worked on his game every year and, by his senior season, is seen as a top 10-15 player in program history. He could’ve transferred, he could’ve pouted, but he didn’t. He just worked and worked and worked until the coaches forced him to leave the gym to get some rest. He’ll be talked about in a similar light as Jamaal Franklin in that regard. For the next decade, the coaches will use Schakel as an example of what hard work can get you.
Matt- Schakel’s legacy is different from Mitchell’s. Unlike Matt, Jordan didn’t start a single game in his freshman season. Nonetheless, Schakel worked his tail off in the gym and the weight room. He absorbed whatever he could from the older guys on the team and from the coaching staff. He applied it, and it paid off. His junior and senior year, specifically, he was dominant. He was there, he rarely had a bad game, and he’s a huge reason why the Aztecs have lost fewer than 10 games in their final two seasons. His work ethic is second-to-none, and Coach Dutcher and this staff can point to Schakel as a teaching tool of how far hard work can get you.
Given the influx of transfers, will careers like Mitchell’s and Schakel’s occur less and less at SDSU?
Andre- Most likely yes, as transfers seem to dominate the college basketball landscape. For instance, SDSU will only have one incoming true freshman next season and very likely three transfers. Historically, those numbers were reversed.
Paul- Absolutely, they will happen less. There will be a double movement that will be responsible for the decrease in four-year contributors and starters. 1. The NCAA will approve legislation to make a one-time transfer rule. Players will get to switch schools without sitting out a year, so even athletes who are playing will look to greener pastures. A top 150 kid blows up at State his freshman year, Duke and Kansas are going to come calling. 2. SDSU will bring in a higher number of transfers and fewer freshmen so the Aztecs can stay older and mature, which makes it less likely players like Mitchell and Schakel commit in the first place.
Erwin- Without a doubt. Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel might be the last 4-year starters in San Diego State history. Really good players and personas in the Aztec program, but given the landscape of NCAA hoops, there’s going to be a seismic shift. Zooming out here, San Diego State has always been successful at luring California players who went out-of-state to play, with some underclassmen committed to play. Given Baylor’s success with transfers this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if fewer and fewer scholarships are doled out to incoming freshmen.
Tron- I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I don’t think so. At least not in as major of a way as most do. Mitchell was a four-year starter, but his freshman team had four transfers on it, so transfers aren’t a new thing and don’t inherently prevent a good player from playing. Schakel got just a few more minutes per game as a freshman than Lamont Butler did this season. Schakel lost his starting spot as a sophomore to a freshman Nathan Mensah on a team that just had one transfer. That’s not to say he wasn’t great, but what the team needs in a given year is an important context to have. Next year we’ll (likely) see another four-year starter leave in Nathan Mensah. A few years after that, we’ll be talking about the legacy of Lamont Butler and Keith Dinwiddie. Transfers have always been a big part of roster construction at San Diego State, but from DJ Gay and Billy White to Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel, four-year guys will also be around.
This was pure brilliance from Lamont Butler on Queta — bright days ahead for the freshman. pic.twitter.com/F1vNxVK1zv
— Jon Schaeffer (@jonschaeffer) January 16, 2021
Matt- Honestly, I don’t think so. Yes, the transfer portal is seemingly increasing every season. However, schools like San Diego State are places where players go to prepare for the NBA. After guys like Malachi Flynn, Kawhi Leonard, and Jalen McDaniels have found success in the NBA, it just helps their case more and more. While those guys weren’t four-year guys, they proved that the coaching staff can prepare guys for the NBA. There’s a reason guys tend to stay at State for four years, and it’s because they get better and better each and every year. For example, Lamon Butler is a guy who could very well stay four years and end up in the NBA Draft in a few years after succeeding at San Diego State.