CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Steffon Mitchell entered the 2019 offseason with a shining reputation among ACC basketball experts. They considered him one of the league's most consistent rebounders. He was an accomplished passer in transition and his ability to affect the game on both ends of the floor could be trusted in almost every situation.
That's not why his ears burned in the offseason, though. For all of his accolades, Mitchell entered the offseason with one giant "yeah but" staring him in the face. He was a lockdown defender and elite-level rebounder. But he felt like no team really respected his offensive ability. So when the heat and humidity splashed across summer months, the Minnesota native spent the summer inside Power Gym, working on the one gap he felt kept him from becoming a complete player.
"Being here (at BC) taught me what it takes," Mitchell said. "Everyone knows what I can do on the (defensive) side of the ball, but I need teams to respect my offensive game. If I can contribute offensively, this can become a really successful season."
There's a subtle irony in Mitchell's offseason regimen because his offense wasn't exactly a liability. He dropped double figures against Wyoming and Providence in the first half of the season and added scoring from the free throw line against Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech and NC State. There was just an inconsistency to his field goal attempts and it created a perception that his game was built more on defensive specialty than complete, all-around play.
"I don't think (Mitchell) is about points," head coach Jim Christian said. "It's about percentages and efficiencies. He works hard and became a better player. You can't put a number on what he can do. It could be 10 points, eight points, or 20 points, as long as he's efficient."
Getting him to change that reputation required building the player's confidence. Mitchell is an athletic 6-8 forward and his physique allows him to play all over the court. A third of his made baskets during his freshman year came from outside the arc, but the number dipped considerably last season. He made a 3-pointer against St. Francis Brooklyn in the second game of the season, then didn't hit one the rest of the season.
More than that, though, he admitted that he began eschewing the shot when he'd miss an attempt, so this offseason was spent in a revamp of his offense. He had to become more confident in taking those long-range shots, since his ability to sink key baskets forces a bigger defender out of the paint.
"Last year, I struggled more mentally," Mitchell agreed. "When I missed some shots early (in a game), I figured I'd forget about the three altogether, and I collapsed back into a typical big around the rim. In my game, though, I'm a good passer. So I can lead a break out on a transition, and I can pull up for a three."
It has Mitchell optimistic for the upcoming season because he can immediately slot into the opportunity created by BC's style of play. The Eagles like using more athletic big men to score points with an ability to draw opposing post players away from the basket. There's an element of speed built in to score points on the fast break. It requires a taller player to hit those shots while getting back on defense to clean the window. It also carries a component of hitting the offensive window, already an intricate part of his game.
"He's probably a top two offensive rebounder in the country, and he can take away the glass," Christian said. "If he can make shots and free throws, he can become a complete player. I've never seen anyone work harder. He didn't go home this summer, and he stayed here to shoot every day and at night. We did everything possible because he deserves the opportunity to be great."