Star Basketball Player Finds Passion After Tumultuous Youth

"It was really tough on me. It really weighed on me. It really taught me how to persevere and stay strong through tough time"
Andrew Thomas September 6, 2018

Robert “Stix” Mitchell was a star basketball player at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. He started nearly every game of the 2008–2009 season, and became one of the most beloved players on the team.

“My first year was amazing playing. It was full of new beginnings for me, playing in the Big East. Being closer to home in New Jersey around my family, I knew guys from the basketball team, it definitely felt like I wasn’t alone there,” he told Humanity.

However, his second season wasn’t as smooth. He spent most of the season on the bench.

“That second year was turmoil. It was really tough on me. It really weighed on me. It really taught me how to persevere and stay strong through tough times,” he said.

After a public spat with his coach, he was kicked off the team.

Mitchell taking a shot. (Shenghua Sung/Humanity)

However, that would only be the beginning of his troubles.

He met with the president of the university in an attempt to get back on the team for one final season. Before he had his meeting, something completely unexpected happened.

Mitchell was driving a friend off campus to buy some marijuana. When they arrived at the location, the friend exited the car while Mitchell parked.

When Mitchell followed his friend inside, he was shocked. The friend had drawn a gun, and was in the process of committing a robbery.

“While it was happening I was in shock, awe, couldn’t believe it. It felt movie-like to see him, to see people on the floor, it was surreal. That image will never leave my head,” he recalled.

Mitchell recognized the victims as friends and fellow Seton Hall students.

Despite this shocking experience, he was still able to make his meeting with the university president. The university decided he’d be able to play the following season. However, the decision wouldn’t matter.

Shortly afterward, Mitchell was arrested for armed robbery.

(Shenghua Sung/Humanity)

Initially, Mitchell thought the police might simply interview him about the robbery.

“I didn’t understand the seriousness. I thought they would bring me in, and ask me what happened. I’d tell them, and they’d let me go,” he said.

But they arrested him for it instead.

He couldn’t afford his $650,000 bail, and would have to await trial in prison.

“These were all variables that scared me quite frankly from day one of being incarcerated,” he said.

However, prosecutors offered the 24-year-old Mitchell a deal. If he testified against his friend, he wouldn’t be sentenced to any jail time.

Mitchell didn’t want to plead guilty for a crime he didn’t commit, but he couldn’t take the risk of being sent to prison.

“I hated to say that I was guilty of something that I wasn’t, just so I could walk out,” he explained.

Mitchell pled guilty and walked free, but had been kicked off the team.

Unable to play college basketball at home, he took an opportunity to play abroad.

Mitchell played in the Global Basketball Summer League in 2011, and won the MVP award at the event.

That’s when a team from Uruguay picked him up.

“It was a time for me which was really therapeutic. It helped me to get away from all the troubling negativity in Brooklyn and New Jersey, and just think about myself,” he said.

Mitchell won the MVP award at the same event in 2012; however, no one picked him up. In 2013, he played semi-professional basketball for four months in Miami before going abroad for the second time.

Over the next few years, Mitchell had the opportunity to play in the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Qatar, Morocco, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.

In 2013, Mitchell was trying out for a team in Lebanon when his son Preston was born. Having a child would change his life dramatically.

While he had a great experience playing abroad, he eventually became homesick and missed Preston. That’s when he decided to return to his native Brooklyn, New York.

Christmas Eve of 2015, Mitchell couldn’t wait any longer. He missed his son, and his home. When Mitchell returned to Brooklyn, he felt welcomed.

It was a difficult decision to leave his team in the middle of the season, but he needed to see his son. Now at another cross-roads, he still couldn’t turn his back on basketball completely.  

“I really missed basketball, and if I couldn’t play I wanted to teach,” he said.

When Mitchell was playing overseas, he realized that he enjoyed coaching and mentoring young players.

Mitchell coaching. (Shenghua Sung/Humanity)

“I used to play against a lot of the younger national players. Just giving them game, and helping them to see a lot of the American game, it did something to me. It made me feel of service to helping younger people to play faster, to play more the American Style,” he explained.

In 2015, Mitchell started coaching youth basketball, and coached in the Amateur Athletic Union for the Brooklyn Ballers during the 2016–2017 seasons.

When his second son Xavier was born, Mitchell decided to take a step back from coaching teams full-time. He shifted his focus toward training younger players.

His training and coaching program would become known as Moves4dayz.

Coaching and mentoring young players is gratifying for the now 31 year-old Mitchell.

“It’s amazing. It great to see them learn, to see them grasp and be able to be sponges. To take the gifts that we’re giving them and apply them on the court,” he said.

Seeing his players succeed is the best reward for Mitchell.

“I love when guys overcome. I love to see them not know something in the beginning of the workout, and by the end of the workout, do it with perfection,” he said.

Three years later his coaching program is still growing.

For Mitchell, being a coach and a mentor is bigger than just playing basketball.

“It’s important for me to know those guys are doing well, doing their school work, listening to their parents, practicing good habits in and out of school,” he said. “Because those are the things that are going to matter when you become an adult.”

Mitchell will be hosting a basketball clinic for kids ages 9 to 17 on May 5.

The camp will be at the Grand Street Campus High School, and will cost $75. Walk-in registrations are welcome, and will start at noon.

Mitchell can be contacted by phone at (718)-314-7554 and by email at [email protected]