1 of 3
Associated Press file
Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell and Darrell Griffith are both former Louisville players known for their high-flying dunks.
When you go on a 10-game win streak, which is (five) shy of the franchise record, and you're the leading scorer as a rookie and you're carrying the team? That's valuable. —Darrell Griffith

SALT LAKE CITY — Inside the Zions Bank Basketball Center Tuesday, a private session was held between Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell and dunk coach Chuck Millan.

Mitchell has just a few more days before he’s ready to display their secret routine during the Slam Dunk contest at 6 p.m. (MT) Saturday at NBA All-Star Weekend.

There’s still some work to do, though.

“I haven’t perfected it yet,” Mitchell said, smiling. “I got some practice yesterday and it was pretty fun, pretty exciting. It’ll be fun. I can’t really share too much but I’m excited.”

The 21-year-old Louisville product will be in the national spotlight this weekend in Los Angeles, as he’ll also participate in the Rising Stars Challenge. His family will be in attendance as he fulfills yet another one of his longtime goals, where his popularity is likely to increase outside of Utah.

“I’ve been watching this since I was like 8 and now that I’m apart of it, it’s going to be crazy,” Mitchell said.

As Mitchell prepares to take flight, a former Jazzman will certainly be paying attention.

Darrell Griffith resides in Louisville, Kentucky, but is closely paying attention to the budding star. Griffith’s career started off a lot like Mitchell’s, where he developed a reputation as a high flyer in Utah with the legendary nickname “Dr. Dunkenstein.”

He was also the last Jazz player to win Rookie of the Year in 1980-81 and is pulling for Mitchell to become the second award winner in franchise history.

“He’s got the most impact on a team,” Griffith said of Mitchell. “Granted, (Ben) Simmons is a beast, he’s the real deal, but nobody saw Donovan coming.

“When you go on a 10-game win streak, which is (five) shy of the franchise record, and you’re the leading scorer as a rookie and you’re carrying the team? That’s valuable,” Griffith said. “So, he’s got my vote. He had my vote if he wasn’t doing well.”

Griffith competed in two dunk contests in during the 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons against legendary talents such as Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Clyde Drexler and Larry Nance. Based off that experience, it’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about the contest and how it works.

These are a list of tips for “Spida” Mitchell from “Dr. Dunkenstein” for his first dunk contest. Take note.

  • Place your dunks
“You’ve got to be able to place your dunks. You’ve got to save your money dunks for hopefully the later rounds, but you might have to use them, depending on if you miss a dunk or not.”
  • Play your cards right
“It’s a lot of strategic play that comes into it when you’re in the dunk contest. You’ve got to say, ‘Okay, these are my dunks.’ You’ve got to lay it out like you’ve got some cards.”
  • Save money dunks — if possible
“For the latter rounds, you want to be able to save your dunks that you hope to get a 50 off of, or a 48 or above. It’s totally different now than when I was in it back in the early 1980s. The format has changed and I don’t think they have as many people involved now.
  • Attack wisely
“Donovan will hold his own, believe me. He’s just got to figure out what he’s going to do and then how he’s going to place his dunks. That’s going to be real important.”
  • What to expect
“He’ll enjoy the whole experience of the weekend with it being All-Star weekend. As far as seeing other guys, being with other guys and just being in the national spotlight is always awesome.”