Powell Ready To Learn From Teammates

As he sat at his home watching the Florida Gators turn the NCAA championship game with UCLA into an intra-squad slam dunk contest, Brandon Powell felt an adrenaline rush like he'd never felt before. Every single dunk --- nine of Florida's last 11 baskets were of the rim rattling variety --- confirmed that he was Gator through and through. As much as he wanted the moment to last forever, he was happy when the final horn sounded on Florida's 73-57 victory.

(Brandon Powell profile)

The moment the confetti started streaming down from the ceiling of the RCA Dome, Powell bolted out the door of his Memphis home along with some of his buddies who had been watching the game with him. They had to get a game going because more than anything else, Brandon Powell needed to do a face job on someone.

"Once the last seconds went off that clock, I had to get out and play basketball," said Powell, a 6-4 wing guard from Memphis Mitchell that signed with the Gators in last November's early signing period. "I was so fired up I had to go out and play and dunk on somebody."

And once the game got going, just dunking wasn't good enough. He knew he needed to rain a few threes in and show off the defensive skills that have earned him the nickname "Straightjacket." He had to deliver a few on the money passes, too. Just because he felt the hot hand on this great night to be a Gator, it didn't mean he could be unselfish. He needed to do everything that he'd seen the Gators doing earlier when they beat UCLA to win their first-ever NCAA basketball championship.

"I had to shoot some threes and do some things like my man, Lee Humphrey," he said. "He's like me, from Tennessee. Him and Corey (Brewer) and me … three Tennessee boys and all of us playing for the Florida Gators next year. Man, that's going to be something. You know, there's gonna be a lot for me to learn but I'll have Lee and Corey to show me the ropes and help me along."

Highlight reel dunker. Long range bomber. Lock down defender. Pinpoint passer. Team guy. Definitely a team guy. That's how you describe Brandon Powell.

He filled up every column on the stat sheet for a Mitchell team that was state runner-up and is sending four players on to Division I including McDonald's All-American Thaddeus Young (Georgia Tech). The numbers show a well-rounded game: 20 points, five rebounds and four assists per game. He had seven three-pointers in one game, six steals in another. During the season he went double figures in rebounds on more than one occasion and he had a couple of double-digit assist games. Steals? He can't even remember how many he had but in clutch situations, it seemed he was always finding a way to come up with the ball.

His numbers only tell a portion of the story. The lack of numbers by the players he defends tells another. He doesn't want to simply shut down his opponent. He wants to smother his opponent, frustrating him to the point that every aspect of his game is in meltdown.

"My goal every game is to put the jacket on the guy I'm guarding," said Powell. "My mindset is to lock him up and shut him out."

If he's shutting out his opponent, then he feels he's only won half the battle. He measures his own effectiveness by the number of times his opponent was able to touch the ball in a scoring zone.

"It's determination and desire," he said. "Deny … you gotta want to keep your man from even getting the ball. You gotta want to frustrate him and when you deny, it's sometimes just as good as a steal because you're giving your teammate a chance to make a big play like a steal or a blocked shot."

Powell's all-around game and unselfish play are what first caught the attention of Coach Billy Donovan and UF assistant, Donnie Jones when they were scouting the AAU circuit where Powell played for Memphis Pump 'N Run. They saw a combo guard that can drain the three-ball and put the ball on the floor and blow by a defender on the way to the rack. They saw an unselfish player that delights in setting up teammates with crisp, accurate passes and they saw a gritty defender that takes it personally when an opponent scores on him.

As Donovan and Jones became enamored with Powell's game, Powell began to take notice that the Gators were putting in the time to check him out.

"Every time I looked up, Coach Donovan or Coach Jones were there, always sitting in the same spot," said Powell. "I think every time they showed up I had a good game, too."

With Powell, a good game wasn't always the one where he scored the most points, got the most rebounds or handed out the most assists. He admits he looked at the stat sheet after the game but only one stat really impressed him.

"The only number that counts is the one on the scoreboard when your team has more points than the other team," Powell said. "It's all about the team and all about winning. You gotta want to do whatever the team needs to win the game. If that's score, then fine, score. If it's rebound, get the rebounds. You can always play defense, too, but you can't let the numbers be more important than getting that W."

At Florida he will play on the wing, apprenticing under "Lethal Weapon Three" Lee Humphrey, one of the nation's top three-point shooters and one of college basketball's most effective but most under-rated perimeter defenders. Powell can consistently knock down the three-ball and he's good enough off the dribble to create his own shot.

Watching the Gators stomp UCLA in the NCAA title game, he loved the way Humphrey put the game away early in the second half by knocking down his open looks from beyond the arc. Humphrey finished the game with 15 points and four three-pointers that were daggers to the heart of the Bruins.

"Now he [Humphrey] can shoot," said Powell. "He's a great shooter and I know I can learn a lot from him about how to get open and know when to pass and when to shoot, but did you see the defense he played? He can play some defense. All those Florida guys can play some defense. They just closed down UCLA in the championship game."

He is working very hard in the classroom so that he finishes his senior year strong academically. He wants the momentum of his senior year to carry over to the University of Florida where he thinks he will major in business.

"I'm going to be the first to graduate from high school ever in my family on the boy's side," he said. "I'll be the first one from my family to get a college degree from a big school, too. That's a lot of responsibility but it's really important for me to do it. I need to set the example. I need to have an education so I can do some good things for my mom, for my family.

"We always dream that there will always be basketball and if I coach someday or something like that, I guess I'll always be able to have a hand in the game, but I've got to get an education. That's the ticket for me and for my family."

He likes the hands-on approach that he sees with Donovan. He likes a coach that tells it like it is. He likes it that Donovan is always pushing his players to excel in the classroom and in every phase of their lives.

"He wants you to be a whole person and he's a good person to have as a role model," said Powell. "Did you watch him in the championship game and in all the tournament games? Coach Donovan was always in control. You see him in the huddle during a time out and he never sweats.

"After the game, he's straight up with everybody and he's always complimenting the other team and he doesn't make excuses for himself or for his players. That's the kind of guy you want to be like, someone who is always cool and can keep it cool even in tight times."

Once he graduates from Mitchell he'll have a few weeks before he reports to the University of Florida to start Summer B. He's got a list of things to work on during his private practice time and of course, he'll be honing his game skills at Memphis parks where there is always a game going against some of the best competition in the country. He wants to become a better shooter and he wants to develop better awareness of where his teammates are on the court at all times. He says his ball handling skills are good but need improving, too. There won't be enough hours in the day for him to work on his game.

Once he gets to Gainesville, goal number one is to establish himself in the classroom.

"College classes will be a lot tougher than high school," he said. "I'm going to get off to a good start and I'm not ever going to let myself lag behind. This is the next step of the rest of my life. Getting off to a good start is important."

If there is one thing that he learned from following the Gators as they trampled one opponent after another on their road to the national championship it is staying humble at all times and never losing the desire to improve.

"First off, I'm going to listen to my coaches," he said. "I'm going to be a guy that follows directions and does what they say to do. They got a national championship. That tells you they really do know what they're talking about. Second, I'm going to learn from my teammates. They've already been through what I'm going to go through and because they've done what it takes to win a national championship, they've got a lot of wisdom to pass down to a hungry freshman.

"Lee Humphrey, Corey, Joakim (Noah), Al (Horford), Taurean (Green), Chris --- all the guys --- I'm going to ask a lot of questions and make sure I work as hard or harder than they work. Whatever I need to do to help the Gators win another national championship, they can count on me to do it."


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