After injury, last year's No. 1 recruit ready
Leon Powell was head coach Dickey Nutt's most anticipated recruit for the 2009-2010 season. Powell's 6'11" frame and soft-touch under the basket would allow Nutt to run the high-low offense at Southeast Missouri State University, but Powell was redshirted for the season with a knee injury.
The team sorely missed his presence at the number four spot and only won seven games.
The 2010-2011 season is starting on Nov. 13 with the Redhawks traveling to Birmingham Alba., to play the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Powell is back on the court.
"I feel good," he said. "One hundred percent. I will keep improving every game."
Powell hated being sidelined with an injury last season while his team needed him. The second tallest players on the team measured three inches shorter than him, and the loss in height conceded rebounds and paint presence.
"It was hard," Powell said. "We struggled last year. I felt like I could help so much. I just had to sit there and go through what they went through, a lot of losses."
Now with a healed knee, he isn't shy to say he wants to rack up the points.
"When it's a time we need to score, I feel like I'll make the basket," he said. "With my personality type I want the last shot."
In the season's two opening exhibition games Powell earned a double-double, 36 points and 10 rebounds in one, and 24 points and nine rebounds in the other game.
He has provided the team with offensive finesse in the paint and a nearly unguardable jumper.
"He is really good in the low post but he can step back out and make the 15-footer," said Zach House, the team's 7-foot starting center.
The two players complement each other.
House is a banger with a large frame, muscling in the paint for rebounds and low post shots, while Powell is more slender and quick.
"Having a fellow big guy like Leon really helps me," said House. "He really opens up things for me."
And the power forward has played against some of the best in the past.
He said competing against people who now play professionally has shaped him. In the past Powell has contended against; center Thaddeus Young, who now plays for the Philadelphia 76ers; guard Jonny Flynn, who now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves and forward Tyler Hansbrough, who now plays for the Indiana Pacers. Powell's team, the Vashon Wolverines from Saint Louis, lost to Hansbrough and the Poplar Bluff Mules, 72-56 in the 2005 Missouri state high school boy's basketball championships.
"I played against a lot of good people," he said. "I don't trip on who we're playing."