It appears as if the complete version of my story on the basketball departures didn’t appear in any print editions today. So, instead of cheating you out of the complete version, let’s post it right here.
TUSCALOOSA — The Tony Mitchell saga wasn’t heading for a happy ending.
By Friday afternoon, it was official. He won’t be back for his senior season.
The troubled Alabama basketball star’s departure was announced in a Friday afternoon news release that also reported the transfer intentions for a go-to reserve. Charles Hankerson Jr. will also find a new basketball home before next season after playing his first two in Tuscaloosa.
Both requested and were granted releases from their Alabama scholarships.
For Mitchell, Friday’s news was the final headline following a season that began with such promise. The junior was second in scoring (13.1 points a game) and was easily the most athletic player on the floor. His dunks made the Swainsboro, Ga., native a regular on SportsCenter.
But his indefinite suspension came just before the Feb. 7 win at Auburn. He never returned but sounded positive in posting to his Twitter account on Feb. 16: “to all my bama fans tmitch is goin nowhere #bamatilidie,” was Mitchell’s posting late that night.
Four days later, coach Anthony Grant announced his suspension would span the rest of the season.
Grant released a short statement with Friday’s announcement.
“We’re appreciative of the contributions they’ve made to our program and we wish them nothing but the absolute best as they pursue the next chapter of their lives and careers,” Grant said in the release. He could not be reached for further comment.
In three seasons, Mitchell averaged 12.7 points, but he was well ahead of that pace late last fall. His 26-point game in a big win over Wichita State on Nov. 18 missed a career high by a single point. Through five games, Mitchell was scoring 17.2 a game.
But he hit a slump just before his suspension. The Jan. 19 loss to Vanderbilt marked Mitchell’s first scoreless game in an Alabama uniform. He scored 14 in his final game — a 69-67 double-overtime win over Ole Miss — after falling below his season average in the previous seven games.
His suspension was announced two days later. He never returned.
Hankerson, fittingly, had one of his best games in the first contest Mitchell missed. He scored 14 points while hitting three important 3-pointers at Auburn. The Miami native also had nine points in the Feb. 14 loss to Florida while pumping some energy coming off the bench.
The highlight of his season came in the doubleovertime win over Ole Miss. He scored 10 points just five days after minor knee surgery.
“My whole team is saying they’re going to injure me now so I can have more surgery,” a laughing Hankerson in early February.
Overall, he averaged 3.6 in 11.3 minutes a game after scoring a career-high 16 against Alabama A&M in November.
Mitchell and Hankerson’s departure continues a recent trend with the Alabama basketball program. Players have left the Tide after each of Grant’s three seasons. Justin Knox transferred to North Carolina after the 2009-10 season and Jason Carter and Kendall Durant left following last season.