Over the course of the last few years, Donovan Mitchell has grown to become an NBA star as a member of the Utah Jazz. But before he rose to prominence as a professional, he played on the hardwood in Kentucky, as a member of the Louisville Cardinals.
Mitchell played at Louisville for two seasons from 2015-2017, earning First Team All-ACC honors during his sophomore year. He entered his name in the NBA Draft in the spring of 2017 and landed on the Jazz after he was selected with the 13th overall pick.
Despite only playing in college for two years, Mitchell still looks back fondly on his time with the Cardinals. In particular, he relished the chance to be a part of one of the best rivalries in college basketball between Louisville and the Kentucky Wildcats.
In a recent appearance on Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson & Darius Mile, Mitchell explained the importance of the rivalry to the state of Kentucky.
“Nothing gets crazier than that Kentucky vs. Louisville rivalry because it’s one time a year, under the bright lights, and it’s usually right around Christmas or New Years time so nobody is in school, everyone has time off, and everyone comes to the game,” Mitchell said, via 247Sports. “That’s definitely one of those games where that means more in Kentucky than winning a national championship.”
Louisville went 1-1 against Kentucky during Mitchell’s time with the program. In both instances, the home team won by a single possession.
Mitchell explained how difficult it was to go on the road to Rupp Arena, which had widely been recognized as one of the toughest places to play in college basketball.
“When I went to Kentucky that was probably more nerve-wracking than playing at home,” Mitchell said. “I’m usually the first one to get out and shoot and the student section there, they’re already there. They got your name, they got who you dated in high school, who you talked to in college, they got all that stuff written down. They got your mom, your sister, first Instagram photo, everything. It’s crazy and it’s all on these big posters they bring. I will say, it’s five on eight when you go to Kentucky, but it’s five on eight when you play at Louisville too.”
The Louisville-Kentucky rivalry remains one of the best rivalries in college basketball and will be back in a big way next season. The Wildcats lead the overall series 37-17.