Charles Mitchell had a memorable college debut last season. The 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward from outside Atlanta had 10 rebounds in only 16 minutes of a three-point loss to defending national champion and No. 1 Kentucky at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
He followed it up with double-doubles four times in the team’s next 12 games, including career-highs of 19 points and 14 rebounds against Delaware State. But for most of the season, Mitchell’s voracious rebounding was matched by an equally insatiable appetite for late-night food runs.
Mitchell spent most of his first year in Maryland fighting to keep off the proverbial freshman 15 pounds. Or, in his case, maybe it was 25. His starting weight of 260 pounds seemed to fluctuate with his playing time. The less he played, the more he ate.
Flash ahead to Mitchell’s sophomore year, which begins Friday in the same place geographically as a year ago. Not only has Maryland’s opponent changed, to No. 18 Connecticut, but so has the physique and floor game of the high-energy sophomore.
Mitchell said recently that he worked extensively after his freshman season with Kyle Tarp, the team’s director of basketball of performance. Like his roommate and best friend, fellow sophomore Shaquille Cleare, “the treadmill became my best friend.”
Mitchell spent up to 45 minutes after each practice doing tibatas -- a high-intensity workout featuring short bursts of running as fast as the feet can take you -- as well as on days when the team was off.
“I haven’t had a day off since about three or 3 1/2 weeks ago,” Mitchell said.
The goal for Mitchell is to combine with Cleare and 6-9 freshman Damonte Dodd to give the Terps depth at a position where they lost first-round draft pick Alex Len, now a rookie with the Phoenix Suns. Of the three, Mitchell has the most polished offensive game.
A lot has to do with his conditioning.
“Charles has lost about eight pounds in the last two weeks. He looks great, he’s practicing well,“ third-year coach Mark Turgeon said after Mitchell was one of the few bright spots, scoring 13 points, in an Oct. 26 intrasquad scrimmage.
In Sunday’s 84-39 exhibition win over Division III Catholic, Mitchell showed how the lost and redistributed weight has allowed him to get out quicker on the break and get up a little higher for rebounds and blocks, and not looking winded after a couple of trips downcourt.
He finished with 11 rebounds and 10 points off the bench.
“I’m flying around everywhere, playing above the rim,” Mitchell said after a practice last week. “I feel like a whole new person.”