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Frank Mitchell, the newest incoming transfer for the Gophers men's basketball team, was the definition of a raw hoops talent when he switched over from hockey his last year of high school.

Mitchell, who committed to coach Ben Johnson on Wednesday, was already 18 when he ditched the stick and skates for a roundball and sneakers.

After wowing some club coaches in Toronto during a pickup game with his length and athleticism, he was invited to play organized ball for the first time as a senior at Oakville Prep in his native Toronto in 2020.

In only four years, the 6-8, 240-pound Mitchell went from late bloomer to one of the nation's leading rebounders this past season at Canisius, a mid-major Division I program in New York.

"I played hockey since I was 3," Mitchell said. "Hockey definitely made me the person I am with the physicality and hand-eye coordination. God placed the opportunities in front of me to play basketball, and it ended up being a blessing in disguise."

Johnson and his staff made sure not to run into U hockey coach Bob Motzko on Mitchell's official visit on Monday. Wink. Wink.

After entering the transfer portal this spring, Mitchell was looking for a major conference program with a strong supporting cast and an open frontcourt spot.

His finalists were the Gophers, Missouri, and Texas Christian. Mitchell was sold after an impressive visit and Johnson's sales pitch about him being a missing piece, especially with the loss of starting center Pharrel Payne.

"They were looking for an [inside presence] that could come in and make an impact right away," Mitchell said. "I think rebounding translates at every level."

On his visit, Mitchell talked with returners Dawson Garcia, Elijah Hawkins, Mike Mitchell Jr., and Parker Fox on striving to lead the Gophers to the NCAA tournament. Mitchell has two years of eligibility, but he wants to win next year after going 15-18 at Canisius, a bottom-half Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team.

"These guys have such a great mindset," Frank Mitchell said. "I have no doubt I'll be able to go in the locker room and laugh and joke, but I'll also really feel a sense of urgency and a winning culture. That just really screamed, 'Frank, this is for you.' "

Six of the top seven scores on Mitchell's former team were guards, so he's not used to playing alongside a post player with Garcia's talent. A 6-11 forward, Garcia led the Gophers with 17.6 points and 6.7 rebounds this season. Mitchell, who lost nearly 40 pounds sitting out after transferring from Humber College in Toronto, averaged 12.6 points and 11.5 rebounds in his first D-I season, ranking fourth in the country.

Garcia, who hit 29 three-pointers last season, can score inside and out. Mitchell, who punished rims with 39 dunks this year, had 132 of his 161 field goals in the paint. But he can put the ball on the floor and pass well for his size. The Big Ten suits him well, he said.

"I'm trying to really be an enforcer down low," Mitchell said. "I'm ready to go and get to work. My teammates are ready to get to work. We'll be a team to watch out for."

The Gophers, who finished 19-15 last season after making the NIT second round, preached to Mitchell about how he could help them continue to build a winning culture. He talked about having a "tremendous respect for Johnson and the coaching staff," including assistants Marcus Jenkins and Dave Thorson.

"I'm just a piece of the puzzle that's going to help us make noise in March," Mitchell said. "That's what our end goal is to make March Madness."