The 2011-12 campaign hasn't exactly gone as scripted for sophomore forward Dwight Powell. An early-season ankle injury prevented Powell from comfortably settling into a rhythm. Powell's numbers dipped a bit, but Stanford continued to rack up victories thanks to one of the deepest rosters in the conference.
Fast forward to late February, and anyone who follows Stanford basketball closely can see how much Powell's play has improved over the second half of the season. Especially on the defensive end, where Powell has routinely crashed the glass (80 of his 120 rebounds have come in second half of year), altered opponents' shots (15 blocks rank third on team) and remained active on defense (third on team with 17 steals).
A matchup nightmare for opponents due to his incredible length and athleticism, Powell is averaging 5.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in 27 contests while making 11 starts. He's also been steady from the free throw line, making 70.9 percent and 15 of his last 17 attempts overall. A native of Toronto, Canada, Powell has scored 64.0 percent of his points in the second half of the year and continues to look more like the player who was named to last year's Pac-10 All-Freshman Team.
THE STUDENT on...
As a sophomore, you haven't declared a major yet. Any specific area of study you are considering?
"Still thinking about it. I'm exploring some options and then hoping to declare by the summer. I'm thinking about going with a Science, Technology, and Society (STS) major with possibly a focus in Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) classes, which also could lead into a MS&E major. I sort of moved away from Economics, which I wasn't as interested in as I originally thought. So I'm still feeling it out."
You're a guy who usually takes an analytical approach to learning about new ideas, concepts, etc. Someone who can contribute a well-reasoned opinion or idea to any discussion or topic.
"For sure. I've always been interested in breaking things down. Puzzles, riddles, games- I like to try and figure things out. That's what I like about STS; it gives you an opportunity to take some engineering courses and maybe even some computer science courses. So it's not too focused, but it also has components that are interesting to me."
As part of a six-member class that arrived on campus last year, it must be a real benefit for you guys to share academic experiences with each other.
"We've all taken some classes recommended by each other. Then again, we've also stayed away from certain classes or professors. We have each others' back on and off the court. Especially when we've taken classes or had professors that someone else might be currently taking. In that case, we can let them know what is expected. So then they can manage their time accordingly and put the right emphasis or effort into the appropriate field of whatever it is they are doing."
It's no question that the ankle sprain from the start of the year slowed your progress. That had to be especially frustrating, considering you were coming off such a successful freshman year.
"It was really tough. It would sprain one or two times per week for the first few weeks. I would start to feel a little bit better. Then we would tape it up real tight, but during normal movements, I would experience a tweak or sprain or it would get jammed again because the ligaments were so weak. So it was tough to battle through that. But now it's really close back to 100 percent."
After watching the dunk you throw down in the clip below during your second game back, it appears you must be a quick healer. You've always possessed the athleticism that allows you to play above the rim and elevate over your defender. Twisting lay-ups, acrobatic finishes, effortless movement. No disrespect to LSJUMB, but scouts aren't requesting media credentials to watch our band.
"Especially with the injury this year, that offense has sort of taken a back seat to simpler plays, two-foot plays, etc. I jump predominantly off my left foot, and that's the one that was injured, so it's made those kind of plays more difficult. Since I'm not use to making those plays due to the injury over the last few months, I've been getting caught in between some decision-making processes on the court that sometimes lead me into bad decisions. So I've been trying to stay away from those and keep it simple as I continue through the healing process. I feel like I can now contribute more and am more confident in my physical ability. Pretty much committing to our defensive plan, relaxing a little more on offense and helping us win."
How has the transition been for you overall, making the jump to high-level Division I college basketball after your experience at IMG Academy?
"College basketball is a completely different game compared to high school/AAU summer ball- the speed, the physicality, the mental aspect, the defense. Every team in college is going to have a few guys who are their go-to scorers. They're going to have guys who know their role and come at you with their best. Every possession counts. Blowouts are rare. A lot of games come down to the last four minutes, and that means every possession on both ends matters. Every rebound matters, so physicality is at a higher level. Every free throw matters, so keeping yourself focused is important. In high school, you could go up 15 and you've won. In the Pac-12, you could go up 15 against a team and then see yourself down 15."