Myles Powell’s dream Seton Hall season has one hurdle left

Myles Powell’s dream Seton Hall season has one hurdle left

The moment — Senior Night two years ago — was bittersweet, and not just because Seton Hall was saying goodbye to four seniors who engineered the program’s resurgence.

The future was unknown. The Pirates, most experts believed at the time, were going to be taking a step back after three straight NCAA Tournament berths.

Nobody could’ve predicted where Kevin Willard’s team would be two years later, or that a sophomore on that team wouldn’t just pick up where Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, Ismael Sanogo and Khadeen Carrington left off.

Myles Powell would raise the program to a new level, leading it to consecutive NCAA Tournament berths and what should be its highest seed in nearly three decades on Selection Sunday.

“It started with them,” the 6-foot-2 sharpshooter from Trenton said. “Them believing in me, as a freshman and sophomore. Without that sophomore year, me winning [the Big East’s] Most Improved [Player], I don’t come into my junior with that confidence to take the program to the next level.

“They helped me become the player I am today. I knew when my number was called and when it was my time, I would be ready.”

Wednesday night, it’s Powell’s turn to say goodbye, along with fellow senior starters Quincy McKnight and Romaro Gill. The trio will play their final home game at Prudential Center, hoping to lead No. 8 Seton Hall to its first outright Big East crown in 27 years. All that’s left is the clincher — to knock off No. 14 Villanova, the Big East powerhouse that has owned the league since it was recreated seven years ago.

“If you add all three variables in, I think it’s going to be a little nuts,” Willard said.

“As a kid, when you talk about college basketball, these are things that you dream about,” added Powell. “This is what I came back to school for.”

Teammates rave about Powell’s leadership and work ethic, the determination that led him to lose 45 pounds from the summer before his freshman year to the start of it. He’s improved each season, becoming much more than a shooter.

Powell has several quintessential superstar traits — he’s clutch, a relentless worker and a respected leader — but there are other characteristics you wouldn’t associate with an All-American. He always defers credit, rarely hides after losses. One day recently, he attended a Seton Hall women’s game, and the camera focused on him in the crowd. Once he noticed, Powell pulled McKnight and sit-out transfer Takal Molson towards him to share the moment.

“He never wants it to be just about him,” McKnight said.

And, yet, so much of these last two years have been about Powell. He basically carried this team to the tournament a year ago, after it was picked to finish eighth in the Big East, averaging 23.1 points per game. This year, he’s dealt with a serious concussion and right knee tendinitis, yet still is averaging 21.5 points while grabbing a career-high 4.4 rebounds.

When Powell was mulling his future in June, weighing whether to return to school for his senior year or go pro, this is what he envisioned. Yet this season has surpassed even his expectations. Seton Hall (22-7, 13-3) is currently in the mix to land a two-seed, according to BracketMatrix.com, which averages out 96 Bracketology projections. It has notched 10 Quadrant 1 wins, second only to Kansas and Baylor, and won at Villanova for the first time in 26 years.

Powell has gotten to experience this dream season with Willard, the coach he considers a father figure; McKnight, his closest friend; and Gill, his roommate for three years. He’s on pace to become the first member of his family to graduate in May, is a surefire All-American and is a strong contender to be Seton Hall’s first Big East Player of the Year since Terry Dehere in 1993.

“I feel like I got everything out of college that you can possible get,” he said. “I went about it the right way. I waited for my time. I feel like I represented the university the best as I can and my family the best as I can.

“If I could do it all over again,” Powell added, “I would.”

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