Athlete of the Issue: CJ Mitchell ’21


Mahmood Almadeh ’20

Mitchell in a March 4, 2020 game against Taft.

CJ Mitchell is a four-year Senior and co-captain of the Boys Varsity Basketball team. Last winter, he earned the Founders All-League Award and an All-Star NEPSAC Class A Honorable Mention. Co-captain Aidan Rodgers ’21 said, “CJ is a great teammate. He is the first man over to pick someone up when they fall. He shows great passion and true leadership on and off the court. He is a fantastic mid-range jump shooter and can take the ball to the basket on bigger defenders.”

In your role as captain, how do you continue to encourage your teammates without a competitive season? 

My teammates made being a captain really easy this year despite the difficult circumstances. From the moment we arrived on campus in the fall, everyone was excited about getting better as a team regardless of the lack of a season. People showed up to lifts and practices every day with great energy, and showing up made it really easy for everyone to stay motivated and encouraged. 

Without games or scrimmages, how have you been able to elevate your skill?

Some of the ways I’ve been able to elevate my game are in large part due to Coach Yassine Talhaoui and the rest of the coaching staff. We’ve been in the gym in small groups and as a full team since we got out of quarantine in the fall. Even though we weren’t competing in games or scrimmages, the coaches and my teammates made every workout competitive. Something that makes our team good is that we all push each other to be the best versions of ourselves on the court and in the weight room. 

How do you plan on continuing basketball in the future?

I plan on continuing to play basketball at Amherst College. I haven’t thought much about my future with basketball after college, but I know I’d like it to stay a part of my life for a long time. 

How have this year’s circumstances changed your routines and practices?

This year’s circumstances have changed a lot. For example, the team usually does open gyms in the fall where we scrimmage for a couple hours each day and invite college coaches to attend the scrimmages. This obviously wasn’t possible this year, and for a large part of the year we weren’t able to compete with contact. That meant that practice sessions were mostly skill and fundamentals-oriented as opposed to playing against each other. Another thing that is different this year is that we couldn’t all go work out at the same time in Fowle because only eight people are allowed in at a time.

How have you and your team made the best of your Senior year together?

I think we’ve made the most of this year by not allowing the unfortunate circumstances to slow us down or demotivate us. We kept working hard and pushing each other while also having a lot of fun together. Towards the end of the marking period, we split the team into two and played a seven game series like it was the NBA finals. I think the bond that we share as a team has made this year a special one despite the unconventional fall and winter.

Can you talk a little about a favorite memory or a highlight from the season so far?

My favorite memory is from a Sunday this fall. On the previous Friday, we had played one of the games from our inter-squad scrimmage, and we were all really sore and tired. We all decided to meet at Sprole at 11 a.m. on Sunday and have Aidan Rodgers ’21, my co-captain, lead us through yoga. It was really relaxed, and we just had a great time hanging out, making jokes, and keeping our bodies healthy before going to eat lunch as a team. This is just one example of how close we are as a team and how we have a really strong family bond.

Why do you love playing basketball?

It’s something that has always been an outlet for me. I know I can always escape on the basketball court. There’s no bad grades or college applications or tests out there. It’s a place that I can go to really clear my mind and forget about things that are negatively impacting me off the court. I know that once I get onto the court, there’s nothing on my mind except winning that game. Giving all our energy to one thing is something that we don’t get to do often at Hotchkiss, or even in life, so I really appreciate having a place where I know all my attention can be focused on one goal. 

What advice would you give to a current or future athlete?

The advice I’d give to current and future players is to make the most of every practice and game you get to play in Fowle. There’s something really special about stepping on the court and hearing the mob of fans in that corner screaming and almost spilling onto the court. Those are moments that I know I’ll always cherish and I hope players in future years get to experience. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.