What’s next for the graduates from SDSU’s 2020-2021 men’s basketball season?

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Jason Freund

Matt Mitchell (11) looks to make a pass during last year’s match against Nevada while Terrell Gomez (3) looks on.

by Morgan Prickett, Staff Writer

With the start of the Aztec men’s basketball season upon us, many fans are left to wonder where last season’s Mountain Western Conference championship-winning team has gone off to.

The 2020-2021 Aztecs basketball team ran through their competition with a 16-3 MWC record and an overall record of 23-5. The Aztecs finished the season ranked No. 16 in the AP Top 25 but fell in the first round of March Madness to Syracuse in a game that could haunt Aztec fans for years to come after Buddy Boeheim’s monster 30-point game.

The good news for the Aztecs is redemption may still be in store.

Of the 18 total roster spots the Aztecs had last season, 14 student-athletes from the championship team have returned for another push at glory.

But even with the return of many of the seasons’ past players, the Aztecs will definitely feel the loss of their three highest scorers last season in Matt Mitchell (15.5 PPG), Jordan Schakel (14.4 PPG) and Terell Gomez (8.6 PPG).

Once the grieving is over, Aztec fans will be proud to hear their three California natives are still contributing strongly to other teams around the world just as they did in San Diego. 

Gomez has had a terrific start to his post-college career. Gomez signed for Final Spor of the Turkish Basketball First League and already leads the team in points and assists per game with 21 and four respectively. Gomez has been the go-to guy for Final Spor in his first four professional basketball games, averaging seven more minutes per game than anyone else on the team.

Gomez — the 5’8 guard who appeared in all 28 Aztec games last season — averaged 8.6 points and 1.5 rebounds in 24.3 minutes per game for the Scarlet and Black. Aztec fans who got to see a lot of basketball from Gomez last season will be happy to know that he’s progressed into a prolific scorer in Turkey.

Mitchell, SDSU’s leading scorer last season, took his talents to France to play for SIG Strasbourg of the French LNB Pro A. In the LNB Pro A —known for sponsorship reasons as Betclic Élite — Mitchell has played four games so far this season and averaged 8.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 0.5 APG. 

In the Basketball Champions League, an annual professional basketball tournament for European clubs, Mitchell has stepped up his play averaging 12 PPG, five RPG, and one APG, including a game-winning put-back dunk against BC Kalev/Cramo, a professional basketball club based in Estonia. ​​Mitchell will look to be a big piece of the up-and-coming SIG Strasbourg team who placed third in last season’s league standings.

Schakel, who was first in last season’s MWC rankings in three-point field goals and three-point percentage, declared for the NBA draft after his senior season at SDSU. After going undrafted, Schakel won himself a spot on the Sacramento Kings summer league team, and his 14 minutes per game contributed to a Summer League Championship for the Kings after defeating the Boston Celtics 100-67.

“The transition from college basketball to the NBA has been the easiest transition ever and the most fun,” Schakel said. “There’s so much spacing in the league and these days teams, especially in the G League, get up an incredible amount of threes which fits my game well.”

After his summer league contributions, Schakel received an Exhibit 10 contract with the Washington Wizards, meaning he will play for the Wizards G-league team this season, the Capital City Go-Go.

“I’m really excited for this season and not having to go to class anymore,” Schakel said. “It’ll be the first time in my life where I can just focus on basketball. So, no matter what happens I’m ready for all the ups and downs because I’m grateful to be able to make money doing something I love to do.”

In recent years, the Aztecs have had multiple students make the NBA. Two of the most notable have been Malachi Flynn of the Toronto Raptors and Jalen McDaniels of the Charlotte Hornets. Schakel says both these players have played a role in encouraging him to excel in the league.

“Malachi and Jalen’s success in the NBA has been really inspiring and encouraging because I got to play with both of them here at state. I think their success shows me that you can get anywhere you want by outworking everyone else,” Schakel said. “With Malachi, I talk to him a lot, mostly about stuff outside basketball but the one thing he has told me is just to stay confident in yourself no matter what.”

Like many Aztecs fans, Schakel will be watching his college team throughout the season.

“I’ll definitely be checking the Aztecs out this year,” Schakel said. “I’m expecting the same as usual from them. It’s a program that I joined as a freshman because of their winning culture and I expect that to continue”