Playground to SportsCenter – Portsmouth Daily Times

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There’s a number of factors that go into perfecting the putback dunk.

Having the athletic prowess to accomplish the feat on a 10-foot rim, timing, and a will for rebounding are all major contributing pieces to that puzzle.

Shawnee State freshman Latavious Mitchell — owner of the No. 4 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays on the Tuesday, March 23 ESPN broadcast of the nightly sports highlight show — agreed that mastering the move has a lot to do with anticipation and timing.

Mitchell, head coach DeLano Thomas, and associate head coach Lindal Yarbrough interviewed about that and their championship run in the most recent episode of the PDT Sports Podcast — available on YouTube and by visiting

“It’s definitely about the timing. I don’t know, it’s natural timing,” Mitchell said. “You have to have that in you to want to go get the ball. It’s kind of being in the right place at the right time, that’s what our coaches preach. Go in there anytime the ball goes up and we’ll get rebounds on whoever we’re facing.”

Mitchell’s rebound and dunk off James Jones’ missed shot gave the Bears a 35-23 lead with less than four minutes to play in the first half in their NAIA National Championship tilt versus Lewis-Clark State.

The instant highlight made its rounds on social media, as it came on the biggest of stages with his team’s 26-game win streak on the line.

However, it wasn’t the first time Mitchell’s leaping ability landed him on SSU’s highlight reel.

Yarbrough said Mitchell has showcased his dunking ability in practice and throughout the season, but that the one announced by SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross had to top the list of dunks during the freshman’s first campaign as a Bear.

“We’ve seen a lot of dunks from Latavious, he’s dunked on E.J. (Onu) multiple times in practice. The greatest has to be the one in the National Championship,” Yarbrough said. “What’s at stake, it’s a high-level game. Knowing what he comes from, didn’t play high school, and now he’s in a National Championship dunking on people on ESPN — that has to be his best one.”

Buccigross even gave Thomas a shoutout in SSU’s 15-second appearance on the nightly recap show after winning the program’s first-ever National Championship.

Thomas said he too was celebrating Mitchell’s dunk, but the ESPN cameras within Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium focused squarely on the freshman post play.

“That was awesome. That’s my guy, I like him. Only SVP is better than him right now,” Thomas said, of Buccigross’ shoutout. “That was great to have that moment for Latavious. If they would have shown me when that happened, I was screaming too. That was a big moment in the game.”

As much as timing goes into making a Top 10-worthy play, so too does experience.

For Mitchell, he said that growing up, he and a friend would play games of “21” — where the only points scored were via tip-dunks.

How fitting.

“What’s funny is that me and my friend would do that all the time when we was younger, play tip-dunks,” Mitchell said. “Just like when you play ‘21’ but tip-dunks only — we used to play that so it just came natural.”

Shawnee State freshman Latavious Mitchell and the Bears appeared on the Tuesday, March 23 edition of SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays — after their 74-68 win over Lewis-Clark State in the NAIA National Championship.

Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved