DENHAM SPRINGS – Tasmin Mitchell sees himself playing professional basketball for five more years, then retiring to the city he loves – Denham Springs.
Mitchell, a star at Denham Springs High and LSU, talked to the Denham Springs Kiwanis Club on Thursday, Jan. 19, about basketball, life and why he is not playing in Europe this year.
“I will retire in my 13th season,” Mitchell said when asked the question. “As long as my legs stay good and I can play, I will play until I’m 40.”
Family is the reason he is now at home.
The week after Livingston Parish was hit by the Great Flood of 2016, Mitchell took his grandmother to the doctor for a medical procedure.
The home he built for his mother was lost to the flood.
“I decided to stay home and help with the process,” he said, “I felt I needed to be home,” with his grandmother being ill.
The time he has spent in Denham Springs, he said, showed him how strong family bonds are.
The past eight years spent playing in Israel, Russia and France, “I can’t buy that time back. You can make money but you can’t put money on time with your family. My family is everything to me.
“It’s about life sacrifices. I made a lot of sacrifices,” Mitchell said, “but I’ve got two daughters and I’ve missed 75 percent of their lives.
“This is the first time to take them to school, take them to dance class, go to parent-teacher conferences. I want my kids to see my face and know I am interested.
“I feel I made a great decision,” Mitchell said. “I want the community to see me here and know I care. I volunteer my help wherever I can. I want you to know I’m here.”
While he is home, “I can’t just sit around,” Mitchell said, “so I decided to be a volunteer coach at Denham Springs, give my time and efforts, I love those boys, I love the area. I love my city.
“I couldn’t be from a better city,” he said.
“I know I have to provide a better life for my daughters,” Mitchell said, so he says he probably will go back to Europe.
“I’m in my prime right now. I’m feeling good; I’m just a couple of years from being an old vet,” he said.
Three weeks ago, a European team called the 6-7¾ Mitchell with “big money,” he said.
“I prayed about it. I still got work to finish at home,” Mitchell said.
His mother and grandmother said, “ ‘Don’t worry about us, go, go,’ ’’ but Mitchell is staying home.
“I can’t do it,” Mitchell said. “They’re backing me up, but I couldn’t do it. I’ll wait for God to tell me to go back.”
The Denham Springs High star, a four-time all-state player and Class 5A Player of the Year in 2005, said choosing LSU was easy because he wanted to stay near home.
And Mitchell is still an LSU Tiger.
“I hate that for Johnny Jones,” he said about the recent losses that left LSU at 9-9, 1-6 in the SEC before Wednesday’s scheduled game with Florida.
“I love my Tigers, I’m passionate about them,” Mitchell said, “But I think (Jones) lost his team. He is too busy trying to be their friend.
“I had (coach) John Brady. He was not my friend,” Mitchell said to the laughter of his audience.
“Now, we are friends ’cause he’s not my coach,” he added.
But when Mitchell played for Brady, “I didn’t look at him as a friend. He was the guy who gave me a job and held me accountable for that job.
“He wasn’t a people person, that’s why he got fired. But he wanted to do his best. I thank him today. He wanted him on this team. That position wasn’t given to me, I had to work.
“The Final Four was great but my last season when we lost 12 in row, it built my character. I think of my senior season and how it went and it made me the man I am today,”
Mitchell has played pro ball a total of six years with Israeli teams, one year in Moscow and last year in France.
Moscow made an impression.
“It was tough. It was cold, you never went outside and there was no sunlight,” he said. “Image a boy from down South where it is always hot and humid and there it was negative 20 (degrees).”
In Paris, Mitchell said he was resting at home for a game that night when terrorist attacks rocked the city, only 20 minutes from his apartment.
But playing in Europe has its positive side, he said.
“It’s an experience; you have to be able to adapt, be open minded,” he said. “I lived in these places and you adapt to these situations wherever you go.”
Mitchell said he handles sports “by the way I was raised. I was raised to treat everyone with respect.”
“My grandmother said, ‘Stay humble; God giveth and God taketh,’ ’’ Mitchell said.
His goal by the time he retires is to have a home ready in Denham Springs and, “Give back to community, maybe coach in high school.”