The best collegiate men’s volleyball programs in the nation came calling.
And if you’re a recruiter, what’s not to like about Buchanan High School’s Donovan Mitchell?
He’s an athletically gifted 6-foot-8 outside hitter with the ability to outleap most rivals and play all over the court.
He’s battle-tested having played for an under-16 national championship club team, and he’s the offspring of former professional athletes.
Those were among the reasons BYU, UCLA, Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara, Pepperdine and USC – all top-25 programs – expressed interest.
But volleyball is more pastime than passion for The Bee’s Player of the Year, who signed with Wake Forest in basketball after also fielding offers from NCAA Tournament perennials such as Florida, Arizona and Maryland.
“It was an amazing experience,” Mitchell said. “I’m very grateful for it. It was very humbling that all these schools wanted me for two sports.”
It was very humbling that all these schools wanted me for two sports.
Buchanan High’s Donovan Mitchell, who was recruited by some of the nation’s top collegiate volleyball and basketball programs. He signed with Wake Forest to play basketball
For a secondary sport, Mitchell played volleyball at a level few across the state could match.
Mitchell was the driving force on a Bears team that went 33-4, captured its third consecutive Tri-River Athletic Conference and Central Section championships, and finished No. 10 in the nation by maxpreps.com.
“He’s the kind of player that at any time can take over a game and control a match,” Clovis coach Rich Lake said. “He’s very hard to slow down, much less stop.”
In his third season as a starter, the TRAC Player of the Year produced 237 kills on .322 hitting, 116 digs, 28 aces and 26 blocks. His statistics are all the more impressive considering Mitchell didn’t play club volleyball over the past year while focusing on basketball.
“To be offered, or even have an option to play volleyball at the Division I level, you’ve got to be phenomenal,” Buchanan coach John Jay said. “And he had (scholarship offers in) both sports. The last year, he didn’t even play club volleyball and he still makes it look easy.
“There are not many guys at the high school level who can contact the ball as high as he can and do the things he can. He can hit at ridiculous angles that are just not normal.”
Sanger coach Scott Okada saw Mitchell’s ability to dominate when he delivered 16 kills, seven digs and two blocks during the Bears’ 25-23, 25-21, 25-18 victory over the Apaches in the section final. Okada said Mitchell presented a matchup dilemma for which his team had no answer.
“He has the crazy athleticism, and also has a pretty good feel for the game,” Okada said. “It’s kind of crazy thinking how good he is without focusing on that sport.”
Basketball is Mitchell’s first love, and he’s followed his father’s lead in an athletically gifted family to an NCAA Division I scholarship. Mitchell, playing for father Mike Mitchell’s Team Superstars AAU team, developed into a consensus three-star recruit who was ranked among the nation’s top 150 prospects by Rivals.com.
There are not many guys at the high school level who can contact the ball as high as he can and do the things he can. He can hit at ridiculous angles that are just not normal.
Buchanan volleyball coach John Jay on Mitchell
Mike Mitchell played for Boyd Grant, first at Fresno State and later at Colorado State, before embarking on a professional career in Australia and Europe.
Donovan’s mother, Michelle Maher, played volleyball at Bullard, Fresno State and Colorado State. She also played pro beach volleyball and competed in professional MMA.
And his younger sister, Buchanan senior-to-be Myca Mitchell, has committed to Wake Forest to play volleyball.
“They both helped me a lot in my sports,” Mitchell said of his parents. “So I had a big advantage in that.”
Boys Volleyball Outstanding Setter: Brandon Becerra
He’s qualified because: Delivered 1,071 assists – second most in the state among teams who kept statistics on maxpreps.com – for an Apaches team that went 31-10, captured the County/Metro Athletic Conference title, finished second in the Central Section and reached the semifinals of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II championships. Becerra was the CMAC’s MVP.
The transition: Becerra was an outside or opposite hitter in his first two varsity seasons, making 88 kills as a freshman and 185 as a sophomore. But needing a replacement for the graduated Tshu Fue Xiong at setter entering this season, Sanger coach Scott Okada turned to Becerra, who not only proved adept at igniting the Apaches offense, but at 5-foot-11, provided a presence as a front-line blocker. Becerra finished with 79 kills, 81 blocks, 147 digs and 53 aces.
Coach said it: “We were pretty happy with the progress he made throughout the season. He’s a really intelligent player. The thing we noticed about him is he sees the game really well. He sees things developing on the court faster than other kids. The team definitely fed off him in terms of his play on the court. When he was calm and confident, they followed his lead.” – Okada
Boys Volleyball Coach of the Year: Scott Okada
He’s qualified because: Okada, along with assistants Marcos Mireles, Brandon Venimura and Kiara Venimura, directed the Apaches to the Central Section finals and the Southern California regionals for the first time in school history to highlight a 31-10 season. Sanger lost 25-23, 25-21, 25-18 to Buchanan in the section finals before moving on to the SoCal Regionals in Division II, where the Apaches opened with a 25-20, 25-18, 25-14 win over Cathedral-Los Angeles before falling to eventual champ Burroughs-Burbank 25-15, 25-19, 25-16 in the semifinals. Sanger’s season highlights also included title runs through the County/Metro Athletic Conference and the Sanger Slam tournament, a third-place finish at the Granite Bay Invitational and a ninth-place finish at the Beach Cities Invitational in La Jolla.
Making his mark: Okada has turned Sanger into the power of the CMAC in his nine season as coach at his alma mater, winning four consecutive league titles and five of the past six. His program has also won the section’s academic award for overall team GPA in boys volleyball the past two seasons.
He said it: “The kids have worked their butts off. It’s nice to see they are having the opportunity to grow and be successful because of the efforts they are making and we are making to improve in volleyball.” – Okada
Boys Volleyball All-Stars
- Garret Bilhofer, freshman, outside hitter, Clovis North
- Akash Dhothar, junior, outside hitter, Clovis
- Myles Dornhofer, senior, libero, Buchanan
- Krystian Florentino, senior, libero, Clovis North
- Nik Gettman, senior, outside hitter/middle blocker, Buchanan
- Austin Gilbert, senior, middle blocker, Buchanan
- Casey Hashimoto, senior, libero, Sanger
- Noah Knebel, senior, middle blocker, Clovis West
- Trey Lake, junior, setter, Clovis
- Travis Leutmixay, senior, outside hitter, Sanger
- Rodrigo Mendel, senior, outside hitter, Fresno
- Max Ogas, junior, outside hitter, Clovis
- Chris Patterson, senior, libero, Clovis East
- Kyle Pittman, senior, outside hitter, Bullard
- Adrian Reyes, senior, outside hitter, Fresno
- Logan Riding, senior, outside hitter, Buchanan
- Jacob Vander Beek, senior, outside hitter, Clovis West
- Brandon Vega, junior, outside hitter/opposite, Madera South
- Zevan Williams, junior, opposite, Clovis
- Jerry Yang, senior, opposite, Clovis East