Mitchell Ready for Special Finish

Jonathan Mitchell

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Sunday is Senior Day at the Rutgers Athletic Center, and it always brings special moments. For senior power forward Jonathan Mitchell, it means his mother will watch him play in person for the first time in his college career. Mitchell talks about how superstitions play into his mom attending games, and the emotions of the day.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. –Jonathan Mitchell won a national championship at Florida, had a game-winning four-point play this season at Rutgers, and has been a calming influence throughout two tumultuous seasons.

But the superstitious Mitchell will experience some uneasiness, and unparalleled excitement Sunday at noon, and more than if he messed up his pre-game footgear routine.

For the first time since his days at Mount Vernon (N.Y.) High, his mother will attend one of his games. Maryann Herring will accompany her 6-foot-7 power forward son onto the court during a pregame ceremony in which the seniors are honored before the home finale against West Virginia, and then sit behind the bench and watch him play.

"Pretty much my whole family is coming," said Mitchell, who leads Rutgers in scoring at 14.4 points per game. "My mom will be there, my little sister will be there, father, grandmother, cousins, aunts, uncles. It'll be nice."

Well, to a degree.

Mitchell, 23, admitted to some jitters about having his mom in attendance.

"The whole stadium is going to know who my mom is. I can guarantee you that," Mitchell said. "She's real loud and intense, so it will be fun."

Herring watches on television, and was able to see Mitchell's four-point play earlier this month to clinch a one-point win against No. 9 Villanova, but there is a reason she doesn't come to the games.

"I'm real superstitious," Mitchell said. "I usually don't let my mom watch me play like that."

Oh, and Mitchell has a few superstitions.

If he plays poorly in a pair of shoes, he won't wear them again. He listens to the same loop of songs on his Ipod before each game – he insists the Kenny Chesney songs are for non-game days – and goes through many pregame rituals, which he shied away from discussing.

"I put my right sock and my right shoe on first before every game," Mitchell said. "Something people probably don't know is I listen to a little country music. It's not on my (pre-game) play list, but it's on my Ipod. Just a little Kenny Chesney."

And when Mitchell messes with the superstitions, things don't go well.

He usually practices in sneakers before he wears them for a game, but he didn't follow his own edict against Seton Hall this month. After a woeful first half, he scored 22 of his 24 points after changing his shoes back to a comfortable, already used pair at halftime.

"I'm bringing out a new pair Sunday, so I'm a little skeptical of that," Mitchell said. "I didn't practice in them (before Seton Hall). I just threw them on right before the game. I never do that, so I practiced in them the last few days, so hopefully they'll be good."

And maybe he will make mom a little prouder.

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