Shereef Mitchell (4) Guard and Jaylin Hunter (12) Guard position on Ohio University's Basketball Team converse before the play at The Convo, in Athens, Jan. 20, 2024.

Shereef Mitchell (4) Guard and Jaylin Hunter (12) Guard position on Ohio University's Basketball Team converse before the play at The Convo, in Athens, Jan. 20, 2024.

Published February 22, 2024

From opponents to great friends

Opponents to friends: How a 1-on-1 matchup spawns friendship

By Robert Keegan III | Sports Editor

Jaylin Hunter and Shereef Mitchell have had many different relationships during their basketball careers. The two have shared a court as opponents in high school, a court as teammates in the Amateur Athletic Association, or AAU, and they’ve had a distanced relationship while playing basketball at other schools. Now, during their final season of college basketball, they’ve found each other again to be teammates one last time before hanging up the shoes for good.

Hunter, a native of Manchester, Connecticut, played basketball at Omaha Creighton Prep for his junior and senior years of high school, a school that just so happened to be a rival of Omaha Burke, the school that Mitchell called home.

From the first time the two stepped on the court in Omaha, they noticed the presence of the other. Each a fierce competitor, Hunter and Mitchell were the perfect competition for the other.

“He (Mitchell) cooked me real bad in a summer league game one time,” Hunter said. “ He’s had my respect since then because that competitiveness isn’t something that you see every day.”

The first time they met, the two weren’t friends — just respected competitors. That was until they found one another again, playing on the same AAU basketball team.

Not only were they on the same team, but they were the leaders of the team, forcing a bond that has lasted much longer than their time as precollegiate teammates.

“Me and him (Hunter) were always the one and two (on our AAU team),” Mitchell said. “It was always us trying to run the team so me and him were always on the same page.”

Following a successful run as AAU teammates, Hunter and Mitchell split again.

Mitchell went off to a storied basketball program at Creighton, while Hunter found himself at Old Dominion.

After an impressive three-year run at Old Dominion, Hunter transferred to Ohio ahead of the 2022-23 basketball season, where he immediately stepped into the role of one of Ohio’s top scorers.

Hunter became acclimated with the team while becoming a respected leader by his teammates. Mitchell, on the other hand, was looking for a new beginning after a four-year career at Creighton, where he averaged 11.8 minutes per game.

During their separate collegiate careers, Mitchell and Hunter never lost touch. The two would often share their experiences over the phone or via social media. When Hunter learned Mitchell entered the transfer portal, it was his mission to bring him to Ohio.

“I came on a visit and saw Jaylin again for the first time in a while and it was on from there,” Mitchell said. “He acclimated me with the rest of the guys and then I just knew it was the right decision.”

Mitchell and Hunter’s previous relationship on and off the court has allowed the two to pick up right where they left off in AAU.

“I think it helps in all aspects,” Hunter said. “(It helps during) games, having that same competitive spirit that we each showed each other in high school when we played against each other and then with each other in AAU.”

Being on the court together as teammates has helped the two become the basketball players they are today.

“It’s been great to see our games mature at different speeds,” Hunter said. “We’ve been able to grow together throughout the season.”

However, it’s never been just about the relationship that the two have on the court; the two are great friends and roommates when not on the court.

“We’re always laughing and joking; we’ve got the same taste in music, so we just bonded from there,” Mitchell said. “We always knew we were going to be really good friends off the court.”

Mitchell and Hunter, Ohio’s two leading scorers, have the team in line for yet another Mid-American Conference tournament run where the team will be looking to achieve its first MAC championship since 2021.

Though both players will see their college careers come to an end at the conclusion of this season, they’ve established a relationship that will last forever.

“After the game, just us being roommates and friends at the end of the day, caring about each other and each other's family, it’s deeper than basketball,” Hunter said.

AUTHOR: Bobby Keegan

EDITOR: Bobby Gorbett

COPY EDITOR: Addie Hedges

PHOTOGRAPHY: Joe Hallquist