Feb. 3, 2011
No. 21/22 Arizona Up Next- 6 p.m. Tonight
Weekly Conversation With Johnny Dawkins
STANFORD, Calif.- Dwight Powell showed up at Stanford in the summer as part of a talented and promising rookie class of freshmen who were going to set the Cardinal men's basketball program in a new direction.
But in many ways, Powell is no rookie.
He's been living away from home since just before he turned 16 years old. Powell, the Cardinal's 6-foot-9 forward, left his home and family, his friends and his high school life behind in Toronto, Canada, to pursue his basketball ambitions at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
So showing up in California ready for college life, that was the easy part.
Turning into impact player on the basketball court isn't quite as easy.
Powell didn't start playing basketball until he was 14 years old. He was on the track team when the basketball coach spotted him and talked to him about switching sports. So two years later, when he left Canada for Florida to pursue basketball, he said he probably wasn't fully aware what he was getting himself into.
He said he didn't realized how much he missed home - his mom, his high school friends - until he went home again for break.
"Once I came home, I appreciated home so much more," Powell said. "When I first went down there, I guess it seemed like a vacation. Then you realize you are visiting home rather than going home and that's tough."
Powell said his experience at IMG Academy helped him to grow up more quickly, taught him a good work ethic and put him on the right track to the versatile game he has now. Powell has the size of a post with a graceful, athletic game, good ball-handling skills and a shooter's touch.
"The coaching staff there was so great teaching me fundamentals and teaching me how to play outside of my position," Powell said. "They were just great life coaches as well."
Powell said he wanted to make sure his experience at IMG was "worth" the sacrifice of being away from home, that he would have no regrets. So he worked hard to make sure it was.
"When I see pictures of my friends graduating and them going through different experiences and the success they had with my high school team when I left...it's something that I can't get back," Powell said. "But I really wouldn't exchange my experience. Although I do feel like I missed out on some of the social things, I couldn't trade it for what I have now. It's a small price to pay."
Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins said he believes he got a more mature player in Powell for his experience.
"Going to a place like IMG, by living there and living on their campus, as opposed to going to your neighborhood high school and going home every day, you have to mature a little faster," said Dawkins. "You have to become more independent and you see that in how he plays."
Powell was one of the top recruits in the nation when he decided to come to Stanford. And now he ranks among the top young players in the Pac-10.
Heading into this weekend's games against Arizona and Arizona State, Powell ranks third (behind Jeremy Green and Josh Owens) on the Stanford team in scoring at 8.9 points a game with 4.9 rebounds. He ranks fourth in minutes played (24.3) while making 16 starts.
Dawkins said Powell has room to improve on both ends of the floor.
"I'm hard to please, so he still has some work to do, but that's a good thing," Dawkins said. "That says how much I think about him and his ability."
Powell agrees with his coach.
"It's gone OK," Powell said. "I definitely see a lot of things I need to work on in my game, offensively and defensively. It is a transition, but I don't use that as an excuse. There are facets of my game that are not quite ready for this level and I want to make sure I develop them."
Fellow freshman Anthony Brown said Powell is not the soft-spoken guy that many people meet.
"He's outgoing and he's always joking around," Brown said. "We freshmen stick together. We had a chance to bond over the summer because we all lived together. We go to movies together, we show up to team functions together. We're all going through the same experience."
But it was Powell with all the experience when it came to settling into life at college.
"He was telling us about time management and showing us the ropes a little bit,"
Powell said he's no more an expert than anyone else.
"It was a pretty smooth transition for all of us," Powell said.
So far that's true on the court and off.
- Michelle Smith