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Tre Mitchell: The journey, the destination and the connections along the way

Travis Fannon
Kentucky Wildcats forward Tre Mitchell (4) shoots the ball during Big Blue Madness on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023, inside Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Tre Mitchell is no stranger to a new environment.

Born in Bamberg, Germany, Mitchell grew up in Pittsburgh. He then moved to Woodstock, Connecticut, for his final two years of high school at Woodstock Academy before committing to the University of Massachusetts for college.

He played two years at UMass before transferring to Texas as a junior and joining West Virginia as a senior.

While he may have finished his career as a Mountaineer in another life, everything changed during the offseason when his coach, the legendary Bob “Huggy Bear” Huggins, first found himself in hot water for controversial comments on a radio show before a DUI saw him officially step down from the program.

Kentucky forward Tre Mitchell (4) shoots the ball during the Kentucky mens basketball Blue-White game on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, at Truist Arena in Highland Heights, Kentucky. The Blue team won 100-89. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff

“I was there when it was all happening,” he said. “It’s definitely a difficult process and you have to evaluate your situation. Selfishly, at the end of the day, I’m trying to accomplish something and I’m trying to get somewhere and the dude that I came to play for was no longer there. I had to evaluate what puts me in the best position to get where I want to be.”

Mitchell was far from the only player in that position, though, with all of his West Virginia teammates in a similar boat.

“At that point … each other, that’s all we had,” he said. “We’re in there every day still working and that’s something I said early on, I was like, ‘Yo, I know that it’s a little messed up right now, but don’t let that distract you from the work because at the end of the day you still got to play, wherever that may be.’ We had so many player’s meetings during the time and everybody was on the same page, we were just going to keep working and let things play out from there.”

When the dust had settled Mitchell ultimately decided that leaving Morgantown was in his best interest, finding his new home at Kentucky.

Beyond the basketball court, Mitchell was aware of the fact that his well-traveled nature may turn him off to some fans who value team loyalty, but he emphasized that he believes his journey has been integral for his growth.

“I would say that a lot of people will see it as a negative because I’m bouncing around a lot,” he said. “I see it as a blessing because I’ve been to so many places. I’ve met so many different types of people. I’ve been able to see how people from all over the world think the same in certain areas and you’re able to relate to more people as time goes on. I start to realize the types of people I’m meeting and how to relate to them and understand them to become a better leader. I’m able to be a translator for them when they might not understand something and I can be someone for them to lean on.”

Being able to connect with different characters and types of people was a big thing for Mitchell, especially when coming to an international brand like Kentucky, which unites so many and has the power to reach people across the Commonwealth and even have a lasting effect towards the rest of the country.

Fittingly enough, Mitchell’s favorite movie, per his UK Athletics page, is “Remember the Titans.”

“I guess that’s kind of where it started,” Mitchell said. “You see that division become a unity and a oneness and seeing that, like, why wouldn’t you want to see that everywhere? People are so involved in little things when in reality we all battle the same things, we just look a little different on the outside. On the inside we’re all under God, we’re all one people and I feel like we were put on this Earth to love and help one another.”

Beyond just his favorite movie, Mitchell said that his mom acts as his biggest inspiration. He spoke about growing up for a significant part of his life with just his mom and his older sister, crediting his mom for raising the two almost entirely by herself.

“She sacrificed so many things in order to provide for us,” he said. “She worked multiple jobs and she endured things I never found out about until I was like 20 years old. Looking back on it, the way she was able to carry herself throughout everything she’s been through, it’s second to none. To me it’s so inspirational because now I’m in a position where I’m able to provide for her and I’m not even a pro yet. She’s that figure for me in my life that tells me no matter how hard things get you gotta keep pushing forward and find a way to make it through.”

Kentucky Wildcats forward Tre Mitchell (4) is defended by guards Antonio Reeves (12) and Jordan Burks (23) during an exhibition at Big Blue Madness on Friday, Oct. 23, 2023, inside Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff (Travis Fannon)

His mom didn’t just serve as a moral inspiration for him, though, as she, a former Charleston Cougar women’s basketball player herself, was integral in introducing him to the sport that fills such a key part of his life now.

“The story is that I was able to dribble a ball before I could walk,” Mitchell said. “She told that to me all the time. I always grew up around the game, I always had a love for the game and she taught me things with my game as well. She knew the physical side of basketball too.”

Mitchell spoke earnestly about his journey and highlighted the importance of the recent changes toward the way mental health is discussed in sports and the opportunity that comes with a brand as large as Kentucky basketball.

“I had some mental health issues myself during my time at Texas,” he said. “I’ve been through it. I’ve seen how emotions can waver and how your thought patterns can change and things like that. I tried to keep a brave face but at the end of the day you never know what someone is going through in their internal world. If you can be a light to somebody, even if it’s just for a couple of seconds, that has the potential to change someone’s mind about something they might think of doing to themselves. At the end of the day, whether it be through sports, your job or wherever, we’re all here for a reason. Our connection with others is what helps get a lot of people through their day-to-day life.”

With Mitchell seemingly right where he needs to be to make that connection with an international audience, the forward hopes to be a leader both on the court and in the locker room for the Wildcats as they seek a ninth national championship all while continuing their humanitarian efforts off the court.

With his life’s journey leading him to the Bluegrass, Mitchell will look to officially make his regular season Kentucky debut on Monday, Nov. 6, inside Rupp Arena against New Mexico State in the season opener. In the meantime the Cats will prepare for exhibition play against Georgetown College and Kentucky State.

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Cole Parke, Sports Editor

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    PatriciaDeatonOct 25, 2023 at 2:24 pm

    What a great young man!