Most of the night Roger Powell, Jr. had to guard Wake Forest big man Eric Williams, with Powell giving up 3 to 4 inches on the Demon Deacons player. On a night when everything was working - so was that match-up. Powell never backed down and pushed the bigger Williams off the block at times. Before the season started Powell, along with center James Augustine, said they will never forget what Duke's big man Sheldon Williams did to them last year. Working on post defense and rebounding was a must during the off season. Weber said, "For us to become a good team, we will have to get stops in the paint from those two guys along with Nick Smith." Powell immediately gave Coach Weber all the credit for having them prepared. "We have this drill we do in practice where coach puts this big orange thing in the hoop so every time we shoot we miss and it forces us to rebound and play better defense," Powell added. Wednesday night, Weber, I would say that "orange piece" did its job.
With 23 NBA scouts in attendance last night, I'm sure most of them were there to see the backcourts from both the Illini and Wake Forest, but what the scouts got a glimpse of was how good Powell can really be. The NBA game is nothing but motion offense and it works best with guys that can put the ball on the floor, shoot it, and finish in traffic. Powell demonstrated that to all those watching.
Head Coach Skip Prosser didn't hesitate to say that Powell concerned him the most. "I thought going into the game the kid that scared me was Powell,'' Prosser said. "Unfortunately, my fears were realized. He played terrific. We didn't have a good match- up in terms of guarding him.'' Powell finished the night with 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting along with 7 rebounds.
After everyone in the Nation watched the Illini hammer Wake Forest 91-73 with the largest lead of the game being 32, Powell was still gracious. "We beat a very good team tonight. Are we number #1? Who knows, but right now we have to take things one game at time. Most good teams do that," said Powell.
Illini fans, don't think that your hard work went unnoticed. Powell along with Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Coach Bruce Weber talked about it many times during the post game press conference. "Our fans are great. We feed off them at home; they have been really good to us here," said Powell. Even with all the orange surrounding the Hall Prosser stated, "It wasn't the crowd that beat us. We've played in an arena like this. The problem was Illinois." My thought is that Prosser was talking about the Cameron Crazies. Nonetheless, Orange Krush members, wear that color proud. Weber gave you a lot of support last night. "Those guys are great. They do more that just come to the games. They raise money; they have the total package." added Weber.
Saturday will be a tough challenge for senior Roger Powell and the Illini. However, Powell is ready for the challenge. One reporter asked Powell if one of his shots was luck. He smiled and said, "I prayed before that and it went in." Maybe with a little more luck and with and a few more wins like last night, we may see Roger Powell in the NBA after all.