Seton Hall’s Myles Powell looks ahead after touching goodbye

Seton Hall’s Myles Powell looks ahead after touching goodbye

It was beauty no one wanted to see. It was warmth no one wanted to feel.

It was a night no one wanted to come.

Myles Powell and a record-setting crowd (16,863) were powerless to postpone what was the senior’s final home game at Prudential Center. The Seton Hall star was helpless to prevent all he knew would come.

Before Wednesday’s 79-77 loss to Villanova, Powell walked onto the court, smiling in the midst of the exhilarating scene. Then, coach Kevin Willard hugged him.

That’s when the tears first fell. Powell wiped them away. New ones formed, dampening his cheeks, eloquently and succinctly detailing his unrivaled run.

“Coach said a few things to me, pretty much told that he loved me. I heard the crowd start cheering and it caught up to me,” Powell said. “I love this building. I love my fans. I love the university. It was just an emotional night for me.”

Powell raised his framed jersey and the crowd roared with gratitude. Unspoken was the inevitable fate of every great show: It ends.

Seton Hall will have no one like him next year. Perhaps not for another generation. Perhaps not in your lifetime.

It wasn’t possible to soak up every second, every shot, every win, every palpable buzz. Who can reflect when a ball is bouncing and time is running off the clock?

Myles Powell
Myles PowellBill Kostroun

Powell hadn’t been able to relish every second, either. He chose to make each one count. He decided that when there was no hint of his destination.

The Trenton, N.J., native couldn’t imagine becoming an All-American, approaching second-place on Seton Hall’s all-time scoring list, heading to his fourth straight NCAA Tournament, securing at least a share of the Pirates’ first Big East regular-season title since 1993.

How could he? He arrived at Seton Hall weighing 240 pounds. He was “Cheese.” He was short of breath a couple of shot-clock violations into workouts.

Powell, who ranked as low as 86th in national recruiting, then shed 45 pounds. He blinked and he was a senior, featured on billboards towering over the state, the most beloved Pirate to ever call Prudential Center home.

“This is what you dreamed of. I’m almost at the finish line of what I started, not only on the basketball court, but I took another step in life as a man,” Powell said. “The next time I’m gonna be in this building is when I’m receiving my diploma.”

It didn’t take long to know what was possible. In his third-ever college game, Powell went off for 26 points in a win at Iowa. As a sophomore slated for stardom, he happily played sidekick to the team’s older core. As a junior, he took the torch as the only returning starter, carrying his team to another dance.

As a senior, he briefly veered from the script. Powell injured his left ankle. He suffered a concussion. He battled with his shot. Still, he remained the most feared closer in the game. He remained the Big East’s best player and the team leader.

Wednesday, he struggled to score 14 points, on 5-for-18 shooting, but he still handed out a season-high seven assists, as expertly as he passes praise and confidence and motivation to teammates.

Returning for his senior season meant Powell could become the first member of his family to graduate college. It ensured his No. 13 would always hang above the court.

“Myles is like my third son,” Willard said. “We’ve always stayed together and I think that’s why I love the kid so much. Whatever’s happened, we’ve always had each other’s back.

“When you see them for your last time on the court, it’s emotional. It’s hard.”

When Powell committed to Seton Hall in 2015, the NCAA Tournament meant everything. Four years have passed since the school’s decade-long drought was snapped. Now, it is no longer enough. The most recent Sweet 16 was 20 years ago. The only Final Four appearance came in 1989.

Powell makes anything possible. It’s strange that some fans apparently forgot, leaving the arena with 38 seconds left and the Pirates down eight. Powell nearly made them pay, trying for a game-tying 3 with five seconds remaining.

No one in the building thought it would miss. No one could believe when it did.

Powell then walked off the Prudential Center floor for the final time, waving to the crowd.

“This one is rough. This is my last time here. We didn’t go out how I wanted to,” Powell said. “But you know me, you know my story, I always say there’s better days ahead.”

The most important chapter is just beginning. Who knows how beautiful goodbye may be?

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