by Jonas Terrado
Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell felt like he’s living a dream amid adoration from Filipino fans in the third leg of a tour which serves as one of the perks for his emergence as one of the leading candidates for the NBA Rookie of the Year.
Mitchell, drafted 13th by the Denver Nuggets in the draft before being traded to the Jazz, came out of nowhere to win the Slam Dunk Contest and lead his team to an unlikely second round appearance in the NBA Playoffs.
“Talking about it, I kinda realize that it’s happening,” said Mitchell during a meet-and-greet session to kick off the third leg of his world tour Sunday at Bonifacio Global City. “The love that I have here, in China and in Europe, it made me realize that it’s not a dream.
“But to be in this spot where almost a year ago, I felt I wasn’t going in the first round of the draft. So, to go from that to here, it’s incredible,” added the 21-year-old forward.
Mitchell along with Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics are in the running for the award given to the NBA’s best freshman.
He has made a good case to win the Rookie of the Year after 20.5 points in 79 regular season games, helping Utah make the playoffs despite losing Gordon Hayward to Boston.
The Jazz beat out Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round before falling to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semis.
Regardless if he wins the Rookie of the Year or not, Mitchell has set a new goal.
“Just to forget about what happened last year,” he said. “To be honest, after everything that had happened, after I gone to this trip and getting back to the States, rookie season’s over with. I’m not talking about it.
“I mean, spending part of the last month-and-a-half kinda give me like ‘wow, I’m really here. I’m playing with my idols and being in the spot.’ I just want to become 10 times better than I was last year,” Mitchell added.