Great expectations for Seton Hall’s Myles Powell as a senior

Myles Powell Credit: Twitter/SetonHallMBB

Die-hard college basketball fans aren’t surprised when standouts from perennial powerhouse programs like Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State and Kentucky are included on the preseason award lists. Seton Hall’s Myles Powell doesn’t fit into that category, but he has helped elevate the Pirates to national prominence and raised his own profile, too.

The senior guard is the Big East Conference preseason player of the year.

What’s more, Powell is Seton Hall’s first preseason Associated Press All-American since the news wire established its preseason team in 1986. (The 65-member national media panel also selected Michigan State guard Cassius Winston, Marquette guard Markus Howard, Louisville forward Jordan Nwora and Memphis center James Wiseman.)

ESPN college hoops analyst Seth Greenberg is impressed with Powell’s skill set.

The Pirates are No. 12 in AP’s preseason top 25 poll. They open their season on Tuesday at home against Wagner. Seton Hall clobbered both foes in recent preseason exhibition games, winning 81-52 and 112-38, both times in South Orange, New Jersey, on campus.

Big expectations

Indeed, expectations are high for Powell and his team this season.

Jerry Carino, who covers college hoops for the Asbury Park Press, penned an October feature on Powell that highlights his athletic skills while also detailing how he’s responded to being the Big Man On Campus.

Headline: “Myles Powell, All-American: Senior’s legacy at Seton Hall goes beyond the scoring

Secondary headline: “The Pirates first-ever preseason All-American has one goal for his senior year: ‘I want to make history.’ He knows points alone won’t do it.”

The article began this way:

Members of the Seton Hall basketball team were lingering on the court, basking in the moment after a big win at the Prudential Center last March, but Myles Powell was not among them. The Pirates’ star walked up into the crowd, removed his sneakers and gave them to a young fan who had visited the locker room before the game.

“For him to go into the stands and find that kid, to me that’s a sign of maturity and how big of a heart he has,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “It was awesome, even if it cost me a pair of shoes.”

“That’s a small price to pay for Seton Hall’s biggest star in a generation, since All-American Terry Dehere rained threes for P.J. Carlesimo’s early 1990s powerhouses. Others have possessed more raw talent, but Powell’s rare combination of production, drive and magnetism has the Pirates positioned to make noise on the national stage this winter.

Dedication pays off

As a college freshman, Powell’s path to stardom was no guarantee. First, he needed to make a major lifestyle change.

The New York Post examined that issue in a recent column by Zach Braziller.

Here’s a key snippet of the story:

Powell arrived at Seton Hall in the spring of 2016 out of shape and not ready to play big-time college basketball. He was 240 pounds, looking every bit like someone who had earned the nickname ‘Cheese.’ In his first individual workout, he lasted just 15 minutes. Strength and conditioning coach Jason Nehring dubbed him ‘Butterball.’

“Three years later, the 6-foot-2 Powell is the picture of perseverance, set to become the first player from his family to graduate college and 831 points shy of the Seton Hall all-time scoring mark owned by Terry Dehere (2,494). His decision to return to school for his senior season set the program up for its most anticipated season in nearly two decades, a preseason No. 12 ranking and the Big East coaches’ pick to win the league.

“ ‘I’d say it’s almost like one of those quotes you read in a book,’ Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. ‘If you don’t give up on your dreams and you combine that with hard work, anything’s possible.’ ”

Myles Powell Credit: Twitter/SetonHallMBB

Improvements every year

Powell’s numbers have increased in key statistical areas in each of his three previous seasons. Scoring-wise, he’s raised his average from 10.7 points to 15.5 to 23.1, which was No. 13 in the NCAA Division I ranks and second in the Big East last season. His rebounding average increased from 2.2 to 2.6 to 4.0 per game; his assists rose from 0.9 to 2.8 to 2.9. His total steals increased from 30 as a freshman to 34 to 68. His 3-pointers made rose from 68 to 94 to 107.

A powerful reminder of Myles Powell’s ability and potential to shine at the next level came during a Big East Tournament game in March. What happened? He dropped 29 points on Georgetown in the first half, making 10 of 14 shots.