Myles Powell was just a kid in high school this time last year.
Granted, he was a highly-touted recruit and already committed to Seton Hall, but he was a high schooler nonetheless. The last Big East Tournament he witnessed was from the stands, cheering on the Pirates as they beat Xavier and then Villanova to secure a conference championship last March.
Thursday was a different animal for the freshman.
Playing in the Big East Tournament for the first time, Powell said he felt some jitters entering Thursday’s game against Marquette. He had played at the World’s Most Famous Arena before, but not on a stage like this.
“He was really excited yesterday,” Angel Delgado said of his younger teammate. “I told him, ‘Don’t get scared. This is a big arena – we play at Madison Square Garden, the Big East Tournament! Just play your game. When you play your game you play good.’”
Powell never looked scared. The sniper scored 17 points in his collegiate postseason debut, going 3-6 from the three-point line. In addition, he added four rebounds and six perfect attempts at the charity stripe in his 23 minutes off the bench. The afternoon ended in an 82-76 win for Seton Hall.
Powell said a quick score after his first shot, a miss, helped him settle in.
“As a player you never really look to be nervous or anything like that. My first shot I missed, then I got a layup, got going. Got the little jitters out,” he said. “I was just anxious – anxious to hurry up and get on the court.”
Delgado, who nearly notched a triple-double himself, was thrilled with the rookie’s performance.
“He was great today. I’m proud of him because it was his first time playing here (in the Big East Tournament). He played tough.”
After some struggles down the regular season stretch, Powell was able to step up on the big stage on Thursday. Kevin Willard said he was happy to see the freshman shine.
The coach added that the Pirates need him to.
“He went through a little tough stretch at the end of February, but he’s played this way all year long,” Willard said. “He may not get as much attention because of the big fella (Delgado), Khadeen (Carrington) and Desi (Rodriguez), the way they’re playing, but Myles is having a phenomenal freshman year.”
Powell’s and the Pirates’ year will continue, with Seton Hall looking like a No. 8 or 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Before the freshman goes dancing, however, there is still business to take care of at The Garden. The Pirates, in a rematch of last year’s championship, will face Villanova in the Big East Tournament semifinals on Friday. Powell is eagerly anticipating the matchup with the Wildcats, who have beaten SHU twice this season.
“I couldn’t wait to do it. It’s like a dream come true,” Powell said, reflecting on Thursday’s win. “I can’t wait for tomorrow. We get another crack at the No. 2 team in the country.”
Gary Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GaryHPhillips.