High School Basketball

His coach is a Hall of Famer, but Mitchell gave him something he’d never had before

Squalicum’s Damek Mitchell goes up against Shorecrest’s Malcolm Rosier-Butler during the first quarter in the Class 2A Northwest District Boys Tournament championship game Feb. 20, 2016, at Mount Vernon High School.
Squalicum’s Damek Mitchell goes up against Shorecrest’s Malcolm Rosier-Butler during the first quarter in the Class 2A Northwest District Boys Tournament championship game Feb. 20, 2016, at Mount Vernon High School. For The Bellingham Herald

Squalicum boys basketball coach Dave Dickson has seen many things in his Hall of Fame career, but until Dec. 6, he’d never coached a player with a triple-double.

Point guard Damek Mitchell changed that.

The Storm senior scored 10 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out 11 assists in a 70-54 win over Marysville-Pilchuck, a performance that came after he scored 27 points in the season opener against Everett.

“It was exciting to have it,” Mitchell said in a phone interview. “It was just hustle, getting my players open shots and scoring the ball. It was a fun time.”

Mitchell has played football and basketball all four years at Squalicum, and Dickson said he’s seen great improvement from last season. Mitchell is physically stronger, he said, and has stepped up for his teams on the gridiron and basketball court.

“It’s neat to see guys that are good players that want to become better,” Dickson said. “And he’s an example of that. Not satisfied with where he’s at; always working to get better.”

Mitchell didn’t even begin playing basketball until he moved to Bellingham from Albany, Ga., around the time he started fourth grade. He’d played only football before that but said he prefers basketball.

And he loves delivering for his team. Passing the ball to a teammate who makes a basket, he said, brings him joy.

The overlap of skills between the two sports isn’t substantial for Mitchell, but the senior said being a wide receiver and point guard require footwork and jumping ability.

Dickson describes Mitchell as a strong leader who is kind to others and has a good sense of humor.

“He understands what we’re trying to get done,” Dickson said. “He’s become like another coach on the floor.”

Mitchell said he spends about four hours a day practicing. He shoots for a bit before classes begin at 7:45 a.m., and then practices with the rest of his team for about 2 1/2 hours each afternoon. He watches film after that.

“My motivation is just getting to the next level,” he said. “Trying just to be the best I can be, and making my family happy.”

That family includes an older and younger brother. Dedrick, the younger brother, is a freshman who plays junior varsity for Squalicum. Damek helps him work on shooting and ball handling.

The next level for Mitchell will come at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. Mitchell visited during his college search, meeting with his future team and coach, and scrimmaging with them.

He was sold.

“When I was playing with them, I just felt a bond with them,” he said.

For now, Mitchell will focus on concluding his high school career with a possible trip to state. He said his proudest memory was getting there during his sophomore year, when Squalicum placed fifth in the Class 2A State Tournament.

This season, the team deals with a move to Class 3A play but does so with what Mitchell said is a very smart team that includes six seniors.

“We’re a shorter team, but we can get out and run,” he said.

Mitchell expects the Storm to contend, much like the football team did.

“A lot of people were underestimating us,” he said of the Storm, who went undefeated in the 3A Wesco North Division and finished 10-1. “I’m pretty sure we shocked a lot of people.”

Several of his football teammates – seniors Ben Peterson and Jack Wendling – are also playing basketball this season.

“Having them (on the team), it brings chemistry and physicality,” he said. “We all have just a bond, both on and off the court.”

Peterson hasn’t played the game since middle school, and Wendling sat out last season. Still, Dickson is excited about things so far.

“We’re just trying to put the pieces together to see what we can become,” he said. “I see a big upside and lots of potential, so hopefully, we can realize it.”

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