"I was looking at where was the best fit for me and that would be Stanford," he said. "It was the best fit because of the combination of world-class academics and world-class athletics. It was the perfect fit, especially coming from IMG; it's sort of like a mini-Stanford in Florida. Stanford's a high level of academics and athletics in areas like basketball, a beautiful campus and a great, great coaching staff."
Turns out despite texting The Bootleg Friday to say he hadn't yet been accepted by Stanford, Powell did hear from the University the day before.
"I'd been accepted, but I didn't want to have that out there before I made my decision," he said. "I was accepted on Thursday afternoon. I'd gotten my application in one week before that."
Despite the timing – getting accepted on a Thursday and committing 48 hours later, Powell insists he wasn't secretly Stanford's all along, just awaiting word from Admissions.
"Nah, it was a hard decision," he said. "Obviously, being accepted let me know that's clearly an option, but that wasn't a determining factor at all in committing. At any school, getting in was a step. I had to work to get into Harvard and Georgia Tech – if they needed me to retake the SAT or whatever, I would have done that. Luckily, I managed to get into Stanford [before committing], but that's just the cherry on the cake. Being accepted first was a bonus."
Powell committed by calling Coach Johnny Dawkins, who Powell reports was understandably excited to receive the news. For his part, Powell is excited to be a part of a class that's shaping up to be Stanford's finest in years.
"It looks really good, a very strong class, which is great, because hopefully we'll get some good wins over the years," Powell said of his 2010 cohort. "I trust Coach Dawkins and am not too worried about the particulars, but we're going to be good. I'm looking forward to playing with these guys."
Powell now has over a year to focus on refining his game before suiting up in a Stanford uniform, and plans on making the most of it.
"I'm just turning everything up another notch -- working hard and getting ready," he said. "I want to be as prepared as possible, academically and physically and in my game. I'm working harder to get myself ready for the Pac-10."
Indeed, Powell speaks of the specific steps he's taking to improve.
"We work on a lot of skill development and I'm going to focus more on that, as well as in the weight room, putting on a few functional pounds while maintaining my speed," he said. "I'm hoping to get stronger and be better prepped for college.
"Skill development is individual things like ball-handling, or the mechanics of my shot in different situations: shooting off the dribble, in different spots, in transition, on the run, all the different aspects of a shot and the specific mechanics of a shot in each situation. So there's the shooting aspect, the ball-handling, defense -- on the ball, off the ball, team defense, denying the ball, full-court situations -- rebounding specifics; there's a lot. It's a lot of specifics, breaking down the game into a bunch of small groups and focusing on those groups. It's not 5-on-5 like a lot of schools do in practice; it's focusing on the specifics of the subgroups in the game."
The methodical approach with which Powell approaches James Naismith's brainchild is thanks in no small part to IMG Academy. Plenty of future college and pro stars have gone through the IMG program, and, in turn, Powell is hopeful that his high school experience will leave him more able to make an immediate impact in college basketball than the typical freshman.
"Absolutely, I think IMG will help," he said. "A lot of guys came in with fairly low upside and not heavily recruited, but really put in the work. That's what they really promote here -- work and you will become successful regardless of where you started. All of our seniors from last year are playing college basketball now."
Suffice it to say, then, that Powell doesn't see a redshirt year in his future. To the contrary, he plans on meaningfully contributing from the day he steps onto the Farm.
"I'm putting in the work here just for that reason," he said. "I'm not working out to play on the bench. I hope I can help the guys in terms of skill level and knowledge of the game. I want to be able to be out there with those guys and not hold anyone back."
A footnote of interest is that, in marked contrast to Anthony Brown, candidate schools' coaching staffs didn't drastically impact Powell's decision. Powell viewed very favorably the coaches at each of his three final schools – Stanford, Harvard and Georgia Tech – so favorably, in fact, that it was essentially a wash in his decision-making process. He'd be in good hands wherever he went, Powell figured, and so he ended up settling on Stanford for all its other benefits.
"That was one of toughest factors, coaching," Powell said. "Harvard and Georgia Tech are moving in the right direction with their programs, but the staff at Stanford is great as well. There's no way to compare there; I have no negatives about any of them. It kind of made my decision harder because I didn't want to say no to any coach, because they're such great coaches. Stanford just fit the bill."
For most of the past decade, the basketball program has helped fill the void in Stanford fans' hearts caused by the football team's struggles, while in more recent years, it's been the football team's successes on and off the field that have helped compensates for basketball's struggles. This past weekend, however, it felt like 2004 all over again, with football suffering through a miserable weekend but the basketball program more than carrying the slack with Powell's commitment.
Whatever the future brings, stay tuned to The Bootleg. We'll be there to cover it all.
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