When Myles Powell walks into the Seton Hall practice gym, the faces that he once turned to for guidance are no longer there.
For the first two years of his college career, Powell could always go to Khadeen Carrington, Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo with any questions or concerns. It was a formula that worked for the Trenton native, as advice from the core four helped him to develop into the Big East’s Most Improved Player last season.
Now, Powell is the one that the younger guys go to as they search for ways to succeed at the college level.
It is a new role for Powell, but one that he embraces. Now a junior, this is Powell’s team and being a leader has become second nature for him.
“Guys are coming up to me and looking for answers,” Powell said at Big East Media Day. “I’m used to going to the four seniors and asking them questions, now I got the freshmen and sophomores coming to me and asking me. I’m trying to take my role as being a leader and do my best.”
Being a leader is not something Powell takes lightly. He has joined forces with senior Michael Nzei to institute a player’s get together every Friday to talk about a wide array of subjects, including basketball. The four seniors set a precedent in their time with the program and now, Powell is taking it upon himself to fill their shoes in a multitude of ways.
“On and off the court you miss [the four seniors],” Powell said. “They repped the school well. They’re funny, they were good leaders on and off the court. It’s hard not to miss that group of guys.”
Powell’s relationship with the four seniors has factored into how he goes about being a leader. Powell values the importance of strong off the court relationships, which typically translates to natural chemistry on the floor.
“Off the court, we’re good. We all bond together,” Powell said. “I feel as if when the team is all connected, it’s easier. That bond leads onto the court. We look good in practice, we battle against each other and we’re competitive.”
Powell’s newfound leadership role is not the only adjustment he’ll have to make this season. He is now the team’s go-to weapon after taking a backseat to the seniors for the past two seasons. Powell thrived in his role as a volume scorer off the bench as a freshman and brought more of that to the table as a sophomore, but his success came as a third or fourth option on the offensive end.
He is now Seton Hall’s undisputed No. 1 option and opposing defenses are going to throw everything but the kitchen sink to try and to stop him. With the ball in his hands more now than ever, Powell has prepared himself for the increased usage by adding new elements to his game with extra work this offseason.
“I’ve been working on coming off ball screens and getting my teammates more involved,” Powell said. “Everyone knows I can shoot, I know a lot of teams are going to be keyed in on me and focused on me. I’m going to have to do other things to be on the court and help my team win games while being a leader on both ends.”
Powell’s approach to taking on an increased role paid dividends in Seton Hall’s season opener against Wagner. In only 24 minutes, Powell scored 30 points on 10 of 13 shooting as the Pirates cruised to an 89-49 victory. It was an impressive performance from Powell, but one that could be built upon in the eyes of head coach Kevin Willard.
Willard has been high on Powell since the day he set foot on campus and with each passing season, his expectations for the guard have skyrocketed. Now that Powell is Willard’s do-or-die guy, the expectation has become that Powell will rank among the elite talents in college basketball this season while taking on new roles both on the court and in the locker room.
“Just wait,” Willard said following the win over Wagner. “I’ve been saying he’s one of the best players in the country for a reason. As he gets a little bit in better shape, game shape, you’re going to see a lot of big games. He’s a special player.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.