WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Charles Mitchell was emotional in the Georgia Tech locker room after his Yellow Jackets lost to Virginia, 72-52, in the ACC tournament on Thursday night at Verizon Center.
He was seated in a chair, still in his game-worn jersey, talking to the few members of the media -- who could be counted on one hand -- as they filed into the locker room. Most were local reporters. The national writers were in the winners’ locker room, focused on the projected No. 1-seed Cavaliers.
Mitchell, the former Maryland Terrapin who was one of five players to transfer out of the program after the 2013-14 season, is in his second season at Georgia Tech. Unlike the two other players from his high school class who left Maryland, this is the end of the line for him. After receiving a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately with the Yellow Jackets in 2014, his four years of eligibility are nearly up.
A berth in the NIT could still be in store for this 19-14 team, but the mood postgame confirms that’s nothing to celebrate right now.
Mitchell sometimes dips his face into his hands or runs his fingers through his hair as he tries to find the right words for this moment, one that he knew would come eventually.
“It really just hit me. Walking off the court it really just hit me,” he told CSN. “I mean, it’s been a long four years, two different teams. I love this team that I’m on now. Really just walking down the bench, dapping my guys up it really hit me that I’ll never play ACC basketball again in my entire life.
“To play my last ACC game in the area I started in is kind of surreal, but I guess it’s destiny. It’s fate sometimes.”
Mitchell was part of a 2012 recruiting class for Maryland that also included Jake Layman, Shaquille Cleare, and Seth Allen. Another, Sam Cassell, Jr., was ruled ineligible and never played at Maryland.
On March 3, Layman was the only player from that group to raise a framed Maryland jersey above his head at center court during the team’s pregame Senior Night ceremony. Cleare is at Texas. Allen is at Virginia Tech.
“The craziest thing about that, we text and talk every day. Every day,” Mitchell said. “We’re all in a group message. It’s not a day that goes by where we don’t communicate with each other.
“They’re still my closest friends. They’re still my best friends. It’s no love-hate relationship. It’s all love for what they’re doing, what we’re doing. It’s just one big family that you can’t get rid of.
“Those group of guys when you’re around 30 and 40 you get with and laugh about things like this but they’ll always be my friends until the day I die. Those close-knit group of guys, I’ll never forget.”
Mitchell says he does not regret making the decision he did to transfer, however improbable this path might have seemed if it had been laid out as a hypothetical when he first got to College Park.
Allen will return to Virginia Tech as a veteran on a young and promising basketball team. Cleare has another year of eligibility and is already on a Texas team that will see what it can do in the NCAA tournament this month. Mitchell, like Layman, will soon see what the next chapter has for him.
“Life sets you on different paths and you have a different destiny,” he said. “You’ve just got to follow that path.”