The 6-8, 185-pound sophomore has played in four of his team's five games so far this season, sitting out one loss because of a sprained ankle. Powell is averaging 19 points and 8 boards per game, according to Newton-Conover coach Ross Rumbaugh, which are basically identical numbers that he put up a year ago as a freshman. Newton-Conover is a small Class 2A school that has gotten off to a 2-3 start so far this season.
Powell, who plays both forward spots in high school, is extremely versatile and has drawn comparisons to both Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Wake Forest star Josh Howard, both for his style of play and his body build.
"For a kid his age, he almost has no weaknesses," said Edward "Buck" Joyner, who coached Powell while with the Charlotte Stars this past summer. "He can handle the ball well, he can shoot outside or shoot over smaller guys on the inside. A lot of the things you have to teach you kids, you don't have to teach Julius. The best part about Julius is that he's open to learn."
Joyner did admit hearing the one major knock on Powell, which was a lack of work ethic at times, but he said that wasn't the case while he was coaching the sophomore.
"I think Julius did a lot more for me and he just seemed to take to me a lot," added Joyner, who is also an assistant coach on the women's basketball team at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte. "I just got a lot more out of him. He's the hardest-working kid I know, but he's not very self-motivated."
In other words, Powell has no problem getting up for the big games against the well-known players – but tends to coast through an easy game and play to the level of his competition.
"He has a tremendous knowledge of the game," said Charlotte Stars coach Ronard Dixon, who coached Powell a year ago on the 14-and-under team. "The only thing he needs to improve on is his work ethic. He has all the skills and has a great inside-outside game. He's one of the few kids I've seen do it at such a young age. If he improves his work ethic, he can probably go pro out of high school."
The other area of improvement – as is the case with so many high school sophomores – is strength.
"He knows that he's got to get stronger and improve his conditioning," Rumbaugh said. "He needs to be able to finish around the rim better with body contact."
Rumbaugh said that Wake Forest, North Carolina, N.C. State and Clemson have been the four most active schools in keeping up with Powell's progress thus far. Tar Heels assistant coach Fred Quartlebaum has already taken in one of Powell's games this season and coaches from the other three schools have also seen at least one of his games already this year. Powell attended UNC's "Midnight with the Heels" in October.
"Julius is a high major type kid who has pro ability," Joyner said. "I'm not saying he should go pro out of high school because that's unfair to him. But there's a chance he could if he keeps working hard."