Unable to remember a time when he did not have a basketball in his hand, Mitch McCarron has put that practice to good use with an enviable resume for a player of 23 years of age.
“My mum and dad used to work at and manage a basketball stadium in Alice Springs and I would shoot basketballs into rubbish bins there,” McCarron says.
“I grew up around basketball and when I finally had the co-ordination to start playing, I loved it.”
Bursting onto the scene at Genesis Christian College in Brisbane, the guard averaged 31 points as he learned to balance a sporting career with his studies.
“It was a small school, but I had a lot of support there. One teacher who had played basketball himself was really understanding,” he admits. “Sometimes I was stressed about the commitments to representative teams and I would have assignments to do. He was really good to sit down with and explain what he did as a junior and how he could help as a teacher.”
McCarron utilised those developed skills at the Metropolitan State University of Denver in the US, where he majored in human performance and sport. He earned the 2014-15 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Summit Award, given to the player with the highest cumulative grade-point average.
On the court, the accolades came thick and fast and were capped by a Division II National Player of the Year award for 2014-15.
He also made first team All-American that season, made first team for the conference the previous two years and helped the Roadrunners to three straight regular season Championships. He finished third in Metro State’s history for points per game (16.3), seventh in rebounds (6.7), eighth in assists (3.7) and 10th in three-point percentage (42%).
“[Those awards] are really a credit to the everyday grind that my coaches put me and my teammates through,” McCarron says.
The guard’s rebound numbers defy his 191cm frame and playing position, with his aggression on the boards a signature of his game-play.
“I’ve always enjoyed rebounding,” he says. “Even when I hadn’t gone through my growth spurt I enjoyed going in amongst the big guys and if I would win just one out of four contests, you could hang some stick on the big guys.”
McCarron’s superb college career has already drawn the attention of NBA recruiters with the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors inviting him to off-season workout camps in recent months. He participated in one-on-one and three-on-three drills with recruiters getting a look at his shooting technique and athletic ability.
Speaking on his future, McCarron has set lofty, yet achievable goals.
“I want to play professionally; make a Boomers team and play in an Olympic Games,” he says. “I think that’s every kid’s dream.”
For now though, his focus is solely on the World University Games as he represents Australia again after playing in the Under-19 World Championships in 2011.
“That was a unique experience and my first taste of a world tournament,” he explains. “Everyone was so involved and every game meant so much.”
Ahead of the World University Games, McCarron was unsure how much of an impact he would have but his role within the Emerging Boomers team was not a concern.
“I really just want to give everything I have to the team, whether that’s playing a bigger role or just knocking down a shot,” McCarron said. “I’m really looking forward to being in the athlete’s village and everything about the tournament. Putting on the green and gold again is always exciting.”
McCarron has so far played in all three of the Emerging Boomers games – against Chinese Taipei, France and Japan – averaging 4.7 points and three rebounds including ten points, four rebounds and three assists in the clash with Japan.
The Emerging Boomers next game is against Finland today at 3.30pm AEST.
Live scores can be found here.