“I’m staying in the gym until it closes:” All-American basketball player Davion Mitchell’s rise started in Hinesville

Sports

Over the last few years, the college basketball world has gotten to know Davion Mitchell as a hard-nosed, relentless athlete with superstar talent and a work ethic to match. 

It’s exactly how people in Liberty County have known him for years, because the talent on display for the whole country in Indianapolis was nurtured in Hinesville. 

“It’s history man, it’s history,” said Mitchell’s high school coach, Julian Stokes. “It’s something that nobody will ever forget.” 

Before Mitchell became an All-American at Baylor and before his Liberty County team ever won a state championship trophy, he would always find himself alone, either in the driveway or in the gym, working on his game. 

“Davion stayed in trouble for never wanting to leave the gym,” said his uncle Derrick. “‘Davion, you’ve got to rest. OK, I’ll take fifteen minutes and go get something to eat and I’ll come right back.’” 

At the Mitchell house, you’ll find Derrick as well as Davion’s 10-year-old cousin Draylen: the people that have never left his side. 

“They supported me since I was Draylen’s age,” Davion said. “(Derrick) was always there for me and they were always giving me advice.” 

Davion never needed much of it to start on the right track to basketball stardom. 

“He didn’t party, he didn’t really go to that many parties,” Derrick said. “He would have a friend that he was talking to or would hang out with them. And after that? ‘Hey, I’m going to the gym and I’m staying in the gym until it closes.’” 

When that Liberty County gym was full, everyone saw the results of the work he did when it was empty. 

“From how I’ve seen him play at Baylor, this is the same Davion that I’ve been able to see coaching him here at Liberty,” Stokes said. “Just being able to get up and down the floor and play defense.” 

Davion’s star grew even brighter when he teamed up with Richard LeCounte, who went on to play college football at Georgia, and Will Richardson, now a point guard at Oregon. 

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for sure and if you ever have that opportunity, you have to make sure you make the best of it,” Stokes said. 

That’s exactly what the Liberty County team did, winning a 4A state title in 2016. 

“In the state championship game, I had a really bad game, but guys like Richard picked me up,” Mitchell said. “It kind of reminded me of games like today at Baylor: when I have bad games there are guys that pick me up.” 

Much like back home, Davion couldn’t stop winning at Baylor. The 2020 Bears reeled off 23 wins in a row and looked like a championship favorite, until the pandemic hit. 

“He came home and we played spades in the living room,” Derrick said. “We came here every other night and played spades with the family. Worked out with him every single day, maybe six or seven o’clock in the morning and then again at eight or nine o’clock at night.” 

 When it was time to go back to basketball, Davion picked up right where he left off. 

“If you give him a basketball and quarantine him, he’s fine,” said Baylor head coach Scott Drew. “Now you might hear the bouncing in his room at night. But he’s a guy that just no matter where he’s at, 24/7, loves basketball.” 

Love of the game has gotten Davion close to a national championship. It might get him to the NBA. 

And it may have just rubbed off on Draylen too. 

“When I went back home, he used to work out with me,” Davion said. “He watches my workouts. I could just tell that he’s going to be a great basketball player.” 

Draylen certainly won’t be the last Liberty County baller to try and walk the trail blazed by Davion Mitchell. 

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