Friday, December 2, 2016

From donuts to buckets, Powell surging for Seton Hall

Myles Powell demonstrates long-range prowess on one of seven three-pointers in Seton Hall's victory over Columbia. (Photo by Joey Khan/The Setonian)

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

When Seton Hall signed Trenton-native Myles Powell after recruiting him for four years, the Pirates knew they were getting a great shooter, "one of the top shooters in the East, if not the country," according to Jay Gomes; publisher of NJHoops.com, in a quote to USA Today. 

What they may not have been aware they were getting was a potential difference-maker.

After losing Isaiah Whitehead to the NBA, many pegged Seton Hall to take a step back, with even the Big East coaches dropping the reigning conference tournament champions to fourth in the preseason poll. But offensively, at least, that has been far from the case. The Hall is averaging over 80 points per game and is 5-2 through seven contests. A huge part of that has been Powell, and nowhere was this more evident than Thursday night at Prudential Center in the Pirates' 95-71 win over Columbia. 

The freshman highlighted a second-half Pirates barrage with 21 points on 7-10 from beyond the arc, including a ridiculous stretch of four three-pointers in three minutes that all but sealed the deal for the home team. 

"My teammates kept finding me and I kept knocking (shots) down," Powell said, ever humble despite channeling former Hall great Jeremy Hazell at times. "I just came off an 0-for-5 (shooting game against Stanford), and the last two days in practice, I wasn't shooting the ball, so my teammates pulled me aside, Coach yelled at me to keep shooting the ball. Coming into the game today, it felt good that my teammates still believed in me."

But Thursday night's display hasn't been the only highlight. He nailed 5-7 threes en route to 26 points in the Hall's true road win at Iowa, and hit three more threes on the way to 16 points against Florida to help run his total to five double-digit scoring performances in his first seven games. Head coach Kevin Willard has been surprised, not by the basketball ability, but the drive of the young guard.

"I did not expect the work ethic he had," Willard said. "Everyone had always told me that he was a little lazy. I should have known by the way he attacked donuts that he would not be lazy once he got in shape. Once he lost all this weight, his game transformed- he can play longer, he's not just shooting threes, he's getting to the rim. I think his game has really changed because he's worked so hard to change his body. Anybody who loses 45 pounds in four months has to be dedicated. Once I saw how dedicated he was and how good he was, I sat there thinking 'the sky's the limit for this kid.'"

"It feels like there's a whole other person off of me," Powell concurred. "I wasn't always just a spot-up shooter, I was just overweight, so all the things I wanted to do (on the court), I couldn't really do. Now that I'm 45 pounds lighter, I can do those things."

Stats-wise, Powell is now grabbing three-point baskets instead of donuts, shooting 20-for-46 from deep (44%) for a team that has not sported a ton of outside shooting threats to this point in the season (junior backcourtmate Khadeen Carrington is the only other Pirate with more than 20 attempts from three-point range). He has been vital for Seton Hall off the bench, with Thursday night representing his first college start.

His teammates have taken notice, and taken him under their wings.

"It's more assists for me," junior forward Angel Delgado said with a chuckle. "This year, everyone's coming at me with double-teams, and having (Myles) there, I can kick it out and I know he'll make a three. Every time he shoots it, I know it's going in, and if it doesn't go in, I still feel good because I know he works real hard."

"I'm so proud of him," Delgado added. "I talk to this guy every day, and I tell him to keep shooting - sometimes he gets down because he's a freshman and when freshmen don't make shots they put their head down, but I'm keeping his head up, and I think he's going to do really well this year. I hope he gets (Big East) Freshman of the Year, because he'll work for it."

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