Dee Mitchell couldn’t join the team.
Mitchell, an Oklahoma State freshman from Jefferson, Texas, visited coach Mike Boynton’s office to ask if he could play basketball as a walk-on. Boynton said he couldn’t remember when it happened; it might have been summer.
Mitchell received an answer, but it wasn’t the one he sought.
“I just don’t know if that’s something that’s possible this year,” Boynton said.
Mitchell couldn’t abandon the game he had enjoyed from the time he was 6. He went to the Colvin Recreation Center, taking advantage of any opportunity he had to play basketball.
Since childhood, he had imagined sinking a 3-pointer in a critical moment for a team, not playing in only intramural or pickup games.
“Basketball has just been a dream of mine,” Mitchell said.
Under wildly unpredictable circumstances, the impossible became possible.
Mitchell, a point guard, buried a 3-pointer to give the Cowboys their first lead against No. 11 Texas Tech on Wednesday night in Lubbock, Texas. Although the Red Raiders defeated OSU 84-80, the Cowboys forced overtime, and Mitchell played every extra minute.
He is preparing to take on No. 15 Kansas at 11 a.m. Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Facing a legendary Big 12 opponent isn’t something Mitchell expected, but one day in January gave him the chance he wanted.
After Boynton dismissed Michael Weathers, Maurice Calloo and Kentrevious Jones on Jan. 16 for violating rules, he needed players to bolster his roster of nine. He held open walk-on tryouts Jan. 17.
To participate, students needed to have a physical examination within the past six months. When Mitchell learned about the tryouts, he quickly went to take his physical and stood in a long line of other hopeful Cowboy basketball players.
Boynton said Feb. 11 that he would add Mitchell, along with walk-on Cade Wagner, to the roster before OSU faced Texas Tech at home. The Red Raiders clobbered the Cowboys in a game Mitchell entered with 1:18 left.
On the road, Mitchell experienced a closer game against Texas Tech, and he said he was nervous.
“But I tried to stay calm and come in clutch for the team,” Mitchell said.
Isaac Likekele, a freshman point guard, said having Mitchell as another option at his position benefits him.
“Ever since the day he got here, he was asking me when I work out after practice,” Likekele said. “He’d want to come up in and shoot with me, this and that, and Dee’s just an all-around great person.”
Likekele said he doesn’t like to refer to the new players as “the walk-ons;” he doesn’t want to separate them from his other teammates. He said they were competitive the first day of practice.
“Dee’s a nice little scrappy guard, too,” Likekele said. “…And he just knows how to go hard every time.”
Boynton is creating chances for Mitchell. He said he has noticed Mitchell’s improvement and confidence.
Mitchell, once a Colvin player with a faraway basketball dream, has solidified a role on the team, and that could happen to any walk-on.
“The other day, it was Dee Mitchell’s opportunity,” Boynton said. “It could be somebody else (Saturday), and I want them all to be prepared to go out there and have success.”