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Justyn Mutts: Current power forward, future POTUS

justyn mutts
Virginia Tech forward Justyn Mutts. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Justyn Mutts admits he wasn’t ready for the spotlight coming out of high school.

“I had pretty good offers, but I just don’t think I was in a space, like, a confidence space, to be able to make that big jump yet. So, you know, I chose the path for me,” said Mutts, who started his college career at High Point, before a season at Delaware and then the past two at Virginia Tech.

Not too many guys who start out struggling to get minutes in the Big South end up playing key roles on ACC Tournament championship teams, but that’s what Mutts has developed himself into to over the past five years.

“I’m in a much different space now, of just life, of just, like, mentality,” Mutts said. “I’m a way different person now, and I feel as though my stops have made me this person. I wouldn’t be able to be as beneficial to this team, or this program, if I were to come here, you know, a child. So, I don’t know, this is amazing. We made it to March Madness last year. That’s a crazy experience, a once in a lifetime kind of experience. But now I get to go experience it again. So, I’m going to just continue to take it all in.”

Virginia Tech, the 11th seed in the Midwest Region, will face the region’s sixth seed, Texas, on Friday in Milwaukee.

That 11 seed is a bit low for an ACC champ with 23 wins and the love from the advanced metrics that the Hokies had, but, whatever.

“I mean, I thought about it a little bit Saturday night after winning, I think even asked somebody, where do you think it will be? Seven, eight, nine?” coach Mike Young said. “I think it’s pretty evident, had we not beaten Duke, we wouldn’t have gotten in, which I scratch my head at a little bit. But you know, 11, we’re playing, we’re in, we’ve got a chance to, you know, play good basketball again and advance, so, let’s see what happens. I don’t care.”

Mutts is Tech’s second leading scorer, at 10.1 points per game, and he leads the team in rebounding (7.4 per game) and assists (3.4 per game) from the power forward spot.

Perhaps more impressive is that Mutts has already earned and undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in agricultural and life sciences, and is currently on track to earn a second master’s degree in educational psychology.

Not surprisingly, when you read that part of his resume, Mutts was named the ACC’s 2021-2022 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for men’s basketball.

“He is brilliant. He could be the President of the United States,” Young said. “He is such a charming, thoughtful, bright person. I’m hoping that he comes back another year and pursues yet another degree, that’s going to be OK with me. We’re not going to discourage that. We haven’t talked at all about that over the last couple of months, but we will soon hopefully in a couple of weeks. I was just proud of him and his work. You know what he does in the classroom, and then comes down here and has been such an exceptional basketball player for us, and a real cornerstone for us this season.”

A bruiser at 6’7”, 230, Mutts goes hard on the floor, and does the same thing in the classroom.

“How you do anything is how you do everything. That’s just my approach to life,” Mutts said. “I’m going to go hard, I’m going to do everything I’ve got to do. So, I’ve just continued to translate that to the classroom, a take no days off kind of approach. I mean, I value school, I value the concept of being able to learn and grow, expand my mind, to become a better person. And so, being able to do that in the classroom, as well as on the basketball court, in regular life, any opportunity I get, I’ll take advantage of it.

“I had the opportunity to come to college for free. A lot of people are deeply in debt right now trying to pay off college, and just, we’re in a position where you just got to do your work. I just take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of me,” Mutts said.

The next opportunity in front of Mutts and his teammates is the NCAA Tournament. The experts had pegged this Virginia Tech team as a dark-horse favorite to compete in the ACC in the preseason, but then the Hokies got out to a middling 10-10 start, including a 2-7 start in conference play, that made every game thereafter a must-win.

“Everybody doubted us. We were 10-10, we were 2-7 in the conference, we went from being 10-10 to now being 23-12. So, everybody had something to say, everybody doubted us, but all we could do was take it one game at a time,” Mutts said. “Moving forward, all we can do is focus on Texas, you know, and be thankful for the next game. It’s not getting your mind wrapped around all the different stuff like, yeah, that’s a huge win, and we want to keep that momentum, and I feel that the momentum is a big part of the reason why we’ve been able to go on this big run we’ve been on, believing in one another believing in ourselves, because everybody else lost faith in us, but we never did.”

Tech bowed out of the 2021 NCAA Tournament with a first-round OT loss to Florida.

The lesson learned from that: “I would say, not to be blinded by the moment,” Mutts said.

“I think last year, some of us were just, like, just so happy to even be there, that the game was almost second thing, that was the focus, it was like, we’re at March Madness, now let’s go play a game. I feel as though this year our approach is way different,” Mutts said. “It’s, we’re going to win these games. We know that we have the team, and we’ve shown that we have the team, to really go on a run, to really get hot when it matters, and just continue to do that. I think it’s six wins, we need six wins, and we get an even bigger ring, and this hand, it’s going to be happy, you know? So all we need is six wins, and we want them all.”

Story by Chris Graham


augusta free press
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