Basketball

Former UVA, Charlotte Christian player OK after eye pops out of socket

Staff and wire reports

Akil Mitchell, left, as he looks to pass the ball during an NBA summer league basketball game in Orlando, Fla. The former Charlotte Christian and Virginia basketball player’s eye popped out of its socket after he was poked in the face during a pro game in New Zealand.
Akil Mitchell, left, as he looks to pass the ball during an NBA summer league basketball game in Orlando, Fla. The former Charlotte Christian and Virginia basketball player’s eye popped out of its socket after he was poked in the face during a pro game in New Zealand. AP

A former Charlotte Christian basketball player's eye popped out of its socket after he was poked in the face while going for a rebound during a pro game in New Zealand.

Akil Mitchell, 24, who also played forward at Virginia, was playing for the New Zealand Breakers in a National Basketball League game against Cairns on Thursday when the accident happened.

The game was stopped for 15 minutes while Mitchell was treated by medical officials, with his teammates left visibly upset by the incident. Cairns won the game 94-81.

Mitchell felt well enough to joke about the accident on Twitter just hours after it took place. His tweet included a small image of eyeballs, asking “too soon? Lol thanks for all the love, well wishes, and prayers tonight. I'm home and seeing fine, more tests tomorrow”

On Friday, Mitchell said he had no vision impairment, but won't be watching any videos of the incident.

[A teammate] really wanted me to see it and I was like, 'I can't do it.’ ... I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch it.

Akil Mitchell

"(Teammate) Paul (Carter) really wanted me to see it and I was like, 'I can't do it,'" Mitchell told the New Zealand Herald on Friday. "It kind of makes my eye throb a little just thinking about it, so I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch it."

Mitchell told the Herald he could still see from the eye after it had popped out of his socket, saying the sensation was akin to "a chameleon, how they can see different directions."

Akil Mitchell is likely to be ready to play in the New Zealand Breakers' next game, though he will wear safety glasses.

He said he felt "truly blessed" the injury was not more serious. Mitchell is likely to be ready to play in the Breakers' next game, though he will wear safety glasses.

"Initially it just felt like I got poked in the eye and I thought 'this is going to be a bad one'," he told a news conference Friday. "Then I felt my eye out of the socket. That's when I think I started to freak out a little bit.

"Of course there was pain and a sort of surreal perspective along with it. I opened my eye and I'm looking up and I can see everything. I touched it and immediately wanted to push it back in and I thought 'that's a bad idea'. I could still see, still move it and I never lost vision. It never went blurry, thank God, and it's doing much better today."

I touched it and immediately wanted to push it back in and I thought 'that's a bad idea'. I could still see, still move it and I never lost vision.

Akil Mitchell

At Charlotte Christian, Mitchell was All-State in the NCISAA as a senior. He was a two-year team captain and Christian’s defensive player of the year as a senior, according to his bio on the Virginia athletics website.

For the Cavaliers, Mitchell finished his four-year Virginia career ranked third all-time in games played (133), seventh in rebounds (798) and tied for 14th in double-doubles (15). He was named to the the 2013-14 All-ACC Defensive Team by the ACC Coaches and Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.

The Breakers are the NBL’s sole New Zealand club; seven others are based in Australia.

The Associated Press and the Charlotte Observer’s Mike Reader contributed to this story.

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