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Big Green Guard to Graduate Early, Depart Program



Wednesday, April 08, 2015
Hanover — Alex Mitola, the Dartmouth College men’s basketball team’s standout point guard, will graduate early and will not return for a fourth season with the Big Green next winter. The junior confirmed his decision with coach Paul Cormier on Monday and broke the news of his impending transfer to his teammates shortly thereafter.

“It was hard because I know the situation it puts them in, but I felt it was what was best for me and my career moving forwards,” said Mitola, who hopes to exhaust his final season of college eligibility with a higher-profile program and begin work on a graduate business degree. He then plans to play professionally overseas.

Said Cormier: “It floored me. A total surprise.”

The coach said he knew Mitola hadn’t taken any terms off and was on track to earn an economics degree in three years, but thought the player would either take extra courses to earn a minor at Dartmouth or begin his graduate work there. After years of struggle, the basketball team improved to 14-15 overall this winter and finished 7-7 in the Ivy League before playing its first postseason game since 1959.

“We’ve gone from nine victories to 12 to 14 since Alex has been here,” Cormier said. “He could have left a real legacy. I hope this isn’t something he later regrets, because it’s not ending the way I think it should.”

The coach said he has deep respect for how hard Mitola has worked on and off the court to put himself in his current position. However, Cormier felt the chance to be a senior and second-year captain, as voted by his teammates, and to enjoy a fourth and final year on an idyllic campus should have carried more weight.

“I’m disappointed and think he’s making a terrible mistake,” Cormier said. “He can’t get that (fourth year at Dartmouth) back. The decision that requires the most substance is staying here and following through with the teammates you came in with.”

Mitola, who said representatives from other schools have already begun contacting himself, his father and his high school coach, said telling his teammates was “scary,” but that their initial reaction was to wish him well.

“They said it’s your life and if this is what you think is best for you, then good for you,” he said. “I was really relieved, because I would have understood if they’d reacted poorly. I’m sure they’ll talk about it amongst themselves and I’m not sure how they’ll ultimately feel, but I hope that I can still be a part of Dartmouth and have them as friends in the future.”

Listed at 5-foot-11, Mitola is from Florham Park, N.J., 30 miles west of New York City. He led Dartmouth with 12.4 points per game this season, played a team-high 34.4 minutes per contest and made 85 percent of his free throws and 37 percent of his numerous 3-point shots. He was a second-team All-Ivy honoree and earned the Big Green’s Most Valuable Player award for a second consecutive season.

Mitola said he’d ideally like to play at a higher level than the Ivy League and sit out next season while familiarizing himself with his new teammates, their practices and plays. It would also allow him a chance to get on solid footing with his graduate studies. However, if the best situation seems to be one where Mitola plays next season, he said he’s open to that as well.

“If nothing works out (in a stronger league), then I think I could be a significant contributor on a level very similar to Dartmouth,” Mitola said. “That’s why I didn’t feel there’s much risk to this.”

Will bigger programs see Mitola as nothing more than a long-range shooter who could be tossed into a game for a few minutes here and there? Will he be courted most heavily by losing programs in desperate straits? Or is there the right niche where the diminutive floor general can earn plentiful minutes and perhaps even help a team reach the NCAA Tournament?

“Only time will tell,” Mitola said. “Since going through the recruiting process four years ago, I’ve learned a lot and know what makes me happy in a program and a school. I wouldn’t say I was unhappy here, but on some level I’ve been searching for something more at times in basketball.”

Cormier must start next season without his top two scorers. Senior center Gabas Maldunas, who averaged 11.2 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds this winter, is graduating, as is senior guard and starter John Golden. Freshman guard Miles Wright was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, but he plays on the wing and backup point guard Malik Gill didn’t start once in 29 games played as a junior. Incoming freshman Michael Stones, from Windermere Prep near Orlando, Fla., may now have a good shot at running the show.

“A lot of minutes just opened up,” Cormier said. “We’re not likely to replace them all with one person but we’re going to have a heck of a season next year.

“This is a bump in the road and we’re going to level it and keep on going. We’re a team that’s full of good kids and perseverance and we’re going to call on that again.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.