More svelte Mitchell ready for last “hoorah” at Tech

When Charles Mitchell goes these days to visit his grandmother, who doesn’t live far from Georgia Tech’s campus, he makes sure to go between meal times. The temptation for her homemade fried chicken, with a side of grandmotherly urging, is too great, and Mitchell has got too much on the line.

He is about to start his senior season at Tech, with one last shot at leaving a mark on the Yellow Jackets’ program, after he transferred from Maryland to be close to his grandmother as she endured an illness.

Mitchell has shed 25 pounds since the end of last season, down from 279 to 254. He has been a physical presence low in the post throughout his career at Maryland and Tech. Now he has the conditioning and stamina to match.

“Mentally I’m focusing on breaking through, not being the same player I was before,” Mitchell said. “Knowing it’s my last go-around, I’m ready to give it all I got, leave it on the table — not going back after this season and being like, ‘Oh I should have done that.’ I’m leaving it all on the table.”

He’s leaving the fried food and junk food on the table, too. Mitchell is eating three healthier meals a day and two snacks. He’s added extra cardiovascular workouts to his routine above and beyond what he’s required to do for Tech. “I ran so many miles on the treadmill — probably from here to Virginia and back on the treadmill,” he said.

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That also meant friends of his who have visited him on weekends recently might be talked into running with him to Piedmont Park, sprinting some hills there, and jogging back.

“By the time we get back to the room, we’re dead tired, but it helped,” Mitchell said. “It really helped.”

He averaged 9.8 points and seven rebounds per game last season in only 22.1 minutes per game, often limited by foul trouble. While he’s not necessarily planning to lobby for more minutes — he’s a team guy who doesn’t see himself making big demands — his coach would like to see it.

“I think him playing 25 minutes a game would be great,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said. “But I think he’s conditioned physically and mentally enough where having to play him for 32 minutes, he’d be OK, and that’s a big change.”

After starting Tech’s first 18 games last season, Mitchell lost his starting job Jan. 25 against Boston College and came off the bench for the final 13 games.

It was the inconsistency game-to-game that bothered Mitchell most. He could score 18 points one game — as he did against N.C. State on Jan. 31 — and four points against Duke the next, on Feb. 4. He posted consecutive double-digit scoring games only five times all season, including one three-game stretch in early January.

“Some games I’d have an amazing game and the next was like, ‘What happened?’” Mitchell said. “I feel like that was because of my energy level and my weight. Now I can sustain my energy level for a long period of time. I can be more effective, so it helps my team a lot.”

Tech plans to pick up the pace this season, and Mitchell said he’s been able to keep up in practice.

“Sometimes I’ll outrun the guards and it’ll surprise me,” he said.

And he’s already got a solid set of tools around the basket, as was evidenced when he posted a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds in a double-overtime loss at Notre Dame last season. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey also recalls the time he poured in 10 points and seven rebounds — six of them offensive — in only 12 minutes against his sophomore season at Maryland.

“Any time you have a veteran older guy and obviously he’s committed and in shape, those kind of guys scare you — that he’s coming back for the last hoorah,” Brey said. “I’ve seen him thump us (before), so I have a lot of respect for him.”

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