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Akil Mitchell sees Nets as his second chance

Brooklyn Nets Media Day Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

It’s been an eventful year for Akil Mitchell. He’s trying out for an NBA team after going undrafted and playing overseas for three years. He’s been reunited with his college teammate, Joe Harris. And he can see clearly. That’s probably his biggest accomplishment after a horrific injury in January while playing for the New Zealand Breakers of the Australian Basketball League.

On the night of January 26, while playing in the New Zealand capital of Auckland (coincidentally Sean Marks hometown), Mitchell got poked in his left eye. He immediately knew this wasn’t a normal injury. His eyeball had been dislodged from its socket, still connected but dangling on the left side of his head.

“When it happened, I thought I was done. I was freaking out. I thought I’d never be able to see again, never be able to play again. All those thoughts run through your head,” Mitchell, 25, told Brian Lewis. “I was sitting down there for an hour waiting for the ambulance, so a lot of things start going through your head.”

Mitchell had been selected by the Nets months before in the D-League Expansion Draft. He thought he had a chance in the NBA.

The ambulance took an hour to get him to Auckland Hospital where he regained vision and his eyeball was slid back into its socket. From that point, it was one doctor’s appointment after another, 10 in all, including some from the Nets. A month later, he was in Long Island, playing for the D-League Nets!

He played in only four games, but the Nets liked what they saw and he was invited to work out at HSS Training Center after recovering from a torn calf. He was signed to a training camp deal just before the Nets left Brooklyn for Annapolis.

Kenny Atkinson says he likes what he’s seen so far.

“He’s so high energy. He’s a real high-level competitor,” Atkinson said. “He’s raised a few eyebrows … assistant coaches are talking about him. It’s great to see him bounce back. When you watch him play, man, that’s probably a kid that’s going to bounce back from adversity. He’s been good.”

A defensive specialist, the 6’9”, 235-pound Mitchell believes he can guard the 2 through 5. So does his college teammate.

“I’m biased. I always thought he’d be a great addition,” Harris told NetsDaily.