JIT Lissone: Talking with Mark Donnal, future big man of Michigan

While watching the Junior International Tournament in Lissone, we had the chance to talk a little with Mark Donnal, arguably one of the best players in the tournament and also one of the best college prospects for the next year. Donnal is averaging 19,5 points per game in the four games played and has lead the Ohio State selection to the championship final, which will be played tonight (Sunday, 1 Apr) at 5 PM in Lissone between Ohio State and Reyer Venezia.

Donnal was born in 1994 and he has spent his last four year playing at Anthony Wayne High School,  where he impressed for his versatility. Indeed, he is a big man listed at 6-8 who can shoot from downtown (4/6 in the JIT semifinals vs. Prague), but who can also play in the low post and be aggressive in rebounding (17 rebounds vs. Milano, when he also scored 30 points). He can do nearly everything on the floor, while never changing facial expression, a skill who recalls a lot the style of Tim Duncan.

His performances in the high school rose the interests of the best college programs in the U.S. and he committed to Michigan, which is playing in the NCAA Final Four and will arguably be one of the best teams in the NCAA next year, too. “Playing to the next level will be a whole different level of competition, but I’m ready to go out there and play for Michigan”, he told us yesterday, after winning the semifinals vs. Prague (61-69). “It’s a lot of fun playing with the best basketball players in Ohio and playing against other international teams, too.”

Despite his impressive performances in the JIT in Lissone, he’s happy with the competition he’s facing in the Tournament played just 20km north of Milan. “Obviously there’s a lot of great teams here, but we have to focus on us. Playing one of these teams (Rome or Venice, the second semifinal was about to begin, Ed.) in the championship game will hopefully be a fun experience”.

Obviously Mark Donnal is still very, very young and he has a lot to improve in his basketball game. So, we asked him what he has to improve in order to be a great college player. “I have to get a lot physically stronger – he answered – for the next level. There’s a lot of big guys and it will be a lot of physically wear and tear every night for each game”.

One thing we noticed in the two games we have seen so far in the JIT in Lissone is that he hasn’t scored a single basket with his left hand, so probably that’s the only other downside he has shown in this tournament. But certainly enough, that hasn’t stopped him from dominating the games he has played here in Italy.