CHICAGO -- As soon as Bobby Locke became Brooks boys basketball coach earlier this year, he recognized one change that needed to be made immediately -- seniors Mike Powell and George Marshall had to swap positions.
In years past, Marshall had been the Eagles’ point guard, and Powell was their shooting guard. Locke saw within his first days with the team that both players had point-guards skills, but Marshall was the more natural scorer and Powell was the more natural passer. It only made sense to flip them.
Once Locke made the move, he could see the difference instantly. Marshall, a Wisconsin recruit, still was his normal self, scoring and dishing with the best of them, but it especially elevated Powell’s game. The ball was in Powell’s hands more, and it made himself, Marshall and his teammates better.
Powell, the ESPNChicago.com/Muscle Milk Prep Athlete of the Week, so far has been the difference for Brooks through seven games, averaging 20 points and eight assists while helping them to a 6-1 start, which included a narrow loss to No. 2 Morgan Park.
“The biggest thing was he was playing out of position,” Locke said of Powell. “George has always been running the point. Mike played the 2, and colleges always looked at him as a two-guard playing in a point guard’s body. Mike’s just running the show now. He’s guarding the other team’s best player, he’s penetrating and dishing, and he’s scoring the ball. He’s going to have an outstanding season.”
Locke’s arrival has also provided Powell with more confidence and freedom offensively. Powell feels he can take chances as the point guard and not have to worry his first mistake will get him taken out of the game.
“With Coach Locke, he’s seen what I could do and what I’m capable of, and he’s let me loose now,” said Powell, who is 5-foot-10. “I’m more comfortable at the [point]. I have good vision and know how to get people the ball. Coach thinks I’m more of a pure point guard, and he allows me to run the show.”
Locke has been just as impressed with Powell's defensive ability. Under Brooks’ last coach, Chris Head, Powell learned how to play fundamental defense and gained an appreciation for bottling up the opponents’ best scorers.
“I know I can score, but I’m not going to let my man do what I’m going to do to him,” Powell said. “If we both have 30 points and five assists, we’re going to cancel each other out. The game’s about matchups and battles. If everyone on our teams wins their matchups, we’ll win. Defense is about desire, too. Some people don’t care about defense. They just care about offense.”
Colleges are beginning to care about Powell. Previously, Marshall and twin big men Keith and Kevin Gray drew all the Division I attention on the Eagles, but Powell is starting to receive his share, too.
Baylor, George Washington and Southern Illinois have been among the schools who have expressed interest in him already this season.
“What’s happening is guys are looking for a lead guard,” Locke said. “I think he’s going to end up somewhere much better than people realize because there’s people still looking for a point guard. When it’s all said and done, people are going to say where has this kid been.
“It’s coming. The numbers are going to be there. As we continue to win games, it’s going to get better and better for him.”
Powell can see it coming, too, and he’s grateful that’s it finally arrived.
“It was hard to be patient,” Powell said. “There’s really nothing you can do, but keep on working. I can’t stop playing. I just go to keep on working.”