Analysis: Just how good has the Mitchell boys basketball team been on offense been this season?
Last season, Mitchell finished as the top scoring team in Class AA at 63.8 points per game, but by almost every measure, the 2022-23 Kernels are outpacing even that effort.
MITCHELL — While elite offensive efficiency is a goal for every team, the Mitchell boys basketball team has made it the standard.
With just over half of the regular season gone, it remains more surprising when the Kernels are on the attack and come up empty, as Mitchell continues to score early and often.
Last season, Mitchell finished as the top-scoring team in Class AA at 63.8 points per game, but by almost every measure, the 2022-23 Kernels are outpacing that effort.
“All it is, really, is 11 guys that have put a lot of time in. There’s no secret to being a skilled offensive player,” said Mitchell head coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt. “Of course, sharing the basketball and playing together is one of our major strengths, but it all comes back to they’re getting what they’ve earned.”
Though it's currently the third-best mark in Class AA, Mitchell is putting up 65.8 points per game this season. Taking a peek at the numbers that lead to those points, the efficiency displayed is uncommon at any level of South Dakota prep hoops.
For the season (as of Jan. 30), the Kernels are shooting 50.8% from the field, including 60.5% on shots inside the arc. In seven of 11 games, Mitchell’s shooting percentage finished north of 50%, with two upward of 60%. That’s already the same number of times last season’s Kernels reached the same level of efficiency, in 13 fewer games.
Going one step further with effective field-goal percentage — a weighted figure that takes into account 3-pointers are worth 50% more than 2-point field goals — the Kernels’ season-low effort in a game is 43.3%, with four performances above 60% and three more at a rate 59% or more. Per possession, Mitchell averages 1.13 points, a good rate for any high school team.
“It’s confidence; having confidence in not only yourself but the teammates who share the court with you,” said senior guard Dylan Soulek. “We feel like we have something really special here. We trust each other a ton and it’s showing.”
Last season, as part of the Class AA-best offensive output, Mitchell shot 45.9% overall (51.8% effective field goal percentage) and averaged 1.06 points per possession.
Such efficiency is rooted in exceptional ball movement, good shot selection and the talent to make it all come together.
All five Kernels on the floor at any given time have shown themselves to be unselfish — Kreutzfeldt even has to reel them in at times because they “over-pass” — which often leads to wide-open 3-point looks or, better yet, uncontested lay-ins within a few feet of the basket.
“Sometimes they make too many passes and I’m like, ‘Just shoot it,’” Kreutzfeldt said. “But they just know what’s going on — where everyone is at, when guys are going to cut, how to play to guys’ strengths. We have a really high basketball IQ group.”
“We’re just working the ball, not trying to force anything and getting whatever we want to get,” Soulek added.
Last season, three Kernels averaged at least 11 points per game (including since-graduated Caden Hinker with a Class AA best 22.2), but there was a void. Just two Kernels averaged between three and 10 points per game. This season, there are still three players averaging double figures, but there are now four contributors averaging between five and nine points.
“This is probably the most depth and skill we’ve had on a team in a long, long time,” Kreutzfeldt said. “I would have a hard time writing a scouting report on us. I don’t know what you’d do or try to take away because we can hurt teams in so many different ways.”
It’s right to question how sustainable it is to shoot 50, 55 or 60% night-in and night-out. However, the pieces are in place, both in terms of personnel and basketball philosophy, to keep the Kernels at or near the top of Class AA.
“To be honest, (there’s) not really (a weakness) right now,” Soulek said. “Teams will try some stuff and figure something out, but we just have to keep playing with that confidence and trust in one another and it’ll all work out.”