Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY — When an NBA team drafts a player, they don’t just draft one person like the Utah Jazz did in signing rookie Donovan Mitchell; they draft his whole family.
Lucky for the Mitchells, they are used to sticking together as a family.
They were in Salt Lake City recently to help the former Louisville guard get adjusted to life on the Wasatch Front as he navigated new geography, larger arenas and new teammates.
“We took TRAX to different places," his mother, Nicole Mitchell, said. "I like being one with where we are just to get a feel. People are super friendly, and they have no idea who we are.”
Donovan's mother and sister Jordan joined him for his first week in Utah as he signed his rookie contract. The two stayed for the Jazz’s first-round draft pick as he made his professional debut at the Utah Jazz summer league.
There was some game analysis during the league, too. What's a sister for, if not to tell "big brother" like it is, right?
“How many fouls is that? Seven,” Jordan said. “I think he’s having fun because in college, he would’ve been out.
"If he looks, he'll see my disappointment when he misses a shot. I'm usually supportive, but when he misses a shot, I'm like, 'c'mon.'"
Both mom and sister often had tears in their eyes as they watched their son and brother fulfill his lifelong dream at the Huntsman Center. They left Salt Lake City Friday, knowing that one Mitchell had quickly earned his place in the Jazz family.
“It’s very inspiring, because I would love to play soccer for the women’s national team,” Jordan said. “Seeing him living out his dream — seeing him makes me feel like I could do it, too.”
Jordan is five years younger than “big brother,” but age is just a number for the close-knit siblings. Donovan’s post on Instagram the night the Jazz made his basketball dreams come true says it all.
“We went to eat at a nice restaurant a few nights ago, and I said that two months ago this wasn’t even a thought,” he said. “Stuff like that is just awesome. To have them out here through this journey is incredible.
“I love my sister and my mother. My sister and I have this great connection — I don’t know if you guys have noticed. The fact that I can give her the world now motivates me and I just love her.”
The child who was once obsessed with fire trucks has become a professional basketball player. His mother and sister admitted they never expected such an outcome.
But there were signs.
“Donovan was always very athletic,” Nicole said. “In our house when we lived in West Chester, he would always tap the arch between our dining room and our living room, and in hindsight, he was just working on his vertical (leap).”
Even so, basketball wasn’t always Donovan’s first love. He grew up in a baseball home. His father, Donovan Sr., was drafted in the 14th round of the MLB draft by the Houston Astros, and he played seven seasons in the minor leagues. He’s still involved in the game as a manager of player operations for the New York Mets.
But the younger Donovan Mitchell’s life was altered following a collision during a high school baseball game.
“He was pitching for his high school, and he overplayed his position,” Nicole said. “Donovan being Donovan, he ran his hand right into the catcher's chestplate, and he broke his wrist. Somehow the catcher broke his jaw bone, so I don’t know how that collision happened.
“From that point on, he was done with baseball.”
Summer League debut
Mitchell put in the work to excel on the hardwood, playing two seasons for Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino at Louisville. He led the Cardinals in both scoring and steals during his sophomore season, which propelled the guard with a nearly 7-foot wingspan to the Jazz via a trade with Denver at No. 13.
He’s a player who fits perfectly into the character-driven franchise’s mold.
“He’s hardworking and he's so loyal,” his mother said.