Before Seton Hall beat Columbia, juniors Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez pulled one of their teammates aside.
The rookie was coming off a five-point, 1-8 performance in which he went 0-6 from deep in the Pirates’ Nov. 27 loss to Stanford. His teammates noticed his hesitancy in practice all week following the game, but on this new night the freshman was going to make his first career start. Carrington and Rodriguez couldn’t let such uncertainty linger into SHU’s game against Columbia.
They had to send a message.
“’Make sure you shoot the ball,’” Myles Powell remembers being told before the 95-71 Thursday win.
With his teammates’ advice in mind, Powell shook off thoughts of his last outing, got himself zoned in to the tune of gospel and rap, laced up Curry 2’s on his feet and did as he was told.
There was no shortage of confidence in Powell on Thursday, who started in place of an aching Madison Jones (hyper-extended knee). The marksman sank seven three-point shots on 10 attempts in front of a home crowd. All 21 of his points came by way of the long ball. Now averaging 14.3 points per game while drilling 43.5 percent from beyond the arc, it was Powell’s second time cracking the 20-point plateau.
“It was like throwing a rock in the ocean,” the guard said. “That’s my favorite saying. As a shooter you’re supposed to think you’re not going to miss. My teammates kept finding me and I kept letting it go.”
Following the Stanford game, Carrington’s and Rodriguez’s message to Powell may have been especially needed, but it is one Powell said he hears frequently.
If he’s open, he’s expected to shoot. Ismael Sanogo jokingly said, “I wanted the assist. I got mad,” at one point when Powell didn’t launch against the Lions. Carrington playfully smacked him upside the head for passing up a good look. Angel Delgado has made it a season-long habit of pulling his younger teammate’s hair when he doesn’t pull the trigger. Head coach Kevin Willard has even stopped practices on occasion to ask Powell why he’s not shooting.
Everyone seems to have their own unique way of supporting Powell in the rare instances he lacks aggression.
“Little stuff like that helps in the long run,” Powell said. “I always know that they’ve got my back. I know that they’re never doubting me. As you see, they always pass me the ball. When your team has confidence in you it makes everything on the floor easier.”
Powell’s emergence as a scorer has brought back memories of Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall’s last surefire scorer. Powell, however, has made it clear he is more than just a spot-up shooter. He said he doesn’t care how people label his game, but his demonstrated ability to shoot off the dribble, drive through the lane and make an impact on defense shows that he’s better-rounded than advertised.
All that ability has to do with how Powell transformed his body. Now 190 pounds, he dropped 45 pounds since arriving at Seton Hall over the summer. The result has been improved stamina and maneuverability. His legs stay fresher longer, he can shoot from farther out and can maximize on bursts of speed.
Willard said he has been amazed by his newest weapon’s work ethic.
“Everyone had told me he was a little lazy. I should have known by the way he attacked donuts that he would not be lazy once he got in shape,” the coach joked. “Once he lost all this weight, his game has transformed. He can play longer, he’s not just shooting threes – he’s getting to the rim – his game has really changed because he has worked so hard to change his body. Anybody that loses 45 pounds in four months has to be dedicated.”
Willard continued, adding that a bright future awaits Powell.
“Once I saw his dedication to his work ethic and how good he was, I sat there and said ‘the sky’s the limit for this kid.’”
Gary Phillips can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @GaryHPhillips.