Auburn freshman guard Justin Powell is one of Auburn’s highest ceiling signees, thanks to his ability to get red hot from three. Even with the hype surrounding him, there is little known about Powell’s game after he sat out most of his junior year due to transferring and suffered an injury as a senior.
Powell’s head coach from North Oldham High School, David Levitch, provided AU Hoops News with the scoop on what Auburn fans can expect from Powell.
Outside of his three point shooting, what do you think Powell’s most-translatable skill will be entering college?
Levitch: I think his play making. When he played for me last year, he had so many guys on him that he didn’t even get to shoot that many threes. I know in AAU, he really lit it up from three, but his play making is really underrated. He was getting 10 assists a game for me. I know it’s at a lower level, but his passing is the best high school passing I’ve seen in a long time. He’s sneaky athletic and very good in transition as well. The way Auburn plays I think is a good fit with his transition game and play making.
If it wasn’t [Powell] passing the ball to a guy for a layup, it was the next pass that got the shot because of him. His court vision is so good, and he was our point guard last year. And that probably helped him out a lot. Instead of just playing on the wing, he became an even better play maker.
What can Auburn fans expect from Powell when it comes to shooting threes?
[His three point shooting] is very good. There was a game when he played, I think, Spencer County, and [Powell] had like six threes in the game, because they weren’t double teaming him and running guys at him.
I know the cliche of guys working out all the time is out there, but I literally let that kid in the gym four out of five days a week to work on his jump shot. He’d shoot 75-80 on the gun every morning. The jump shot is definitely there. His stats aren’t what it showed, because he was getting “James Harden’d” last season. Right when he crossed half court, they’d just run two guys at him.
I really think [Powell] is going to have a good future.
Can you talk about Powell’s athleticism and physicality?
Levitch: He actually has like a 40-inch vertical, but he was bothered by his groin a lot. He got surgery, or whatever he got, and now he’s like a whole new dude. I’ve seen videos of him working out, and he’s back to having athleticism like he was [before the injury]. When he got to my school, he was dunking on everyone, then his injury started bothering him.
In our games, he was probably only at 70-percent. He had to do a lot of treatment to make it through. Now that he had the procedure, he’s fine.
What areas of Powell’s game do you think he could improve that would allow him to make an earlier impact?
Levitch: It’s a big jump, unless you’re destined for stardom. He has to improve everything, like most freshman, but he has such a good base on him already that I would not be surprised if he made a good impact as a freshman, even with how good Auburn is. Because he’s 6’6”, strong, athletic and he already has the body. He has to put it together mentally once he gets there, because it’s such a different game.
How did Powell handle the adversity from having to sit out due to transferring and then dealing with injuries? And how do you think that will help him down the line?
Levitch: When he sat out his junior year, after he transferred to North [Oldham High School], he actually practiced every day. I know practice isn’t playing, but he wasn’t sitting out for literally eight months. He practiced the entire practice every day. Last year, I think he wished he could have played more, but I think it really helped him because his confidence is soaring. I think it helped him to come back to North, instead of just being one of those guys on Montverde. I think being the man really helped his confidence.
He got his break time, but now that he’s there early with everyone, I don’t think it will matter.
What positions do you think Powell can play?
Levitch: I know the colllege game is a lot different, but he was such a good point guard [in high school]. I could see him playing the 1, 2 and 3. In slower games, he could 100-percent be the point guard, but i think he can be a 3 too. He probably will get to 6’7” or 6’8”. His dad is really tall, and he has a tall family.
He can guard 1, 2 or 3. He’s very good at defense, that’s one of his underrated [skills] that no one ever talked about. He’s just an all-around good player, to be honest with you.
Can you talk about Powell’s style of defense?
Levitch: He kind of has a little grit to him. He’s one of those people who takes it personal. In the [King of the Bluegrass tournament, Powell] was guarding [6’8” Louisville signee JJ] Traynor. [Powell] didn’t come out one time that entire tournament. When he was guarding Traynor, he was balls to the wall the whole time, even more than he was on offense. Just to stop [Traynor], so we could win the game. He takes it personal. He likes to guard the best player on every team. He did the same in AAU and did the same at Trinity.
What other parts of Powell’s game will translate well to college?
Levitch: He’s just a very big skilled guard. I know people look at him as a three-point shooter, but he’s way more than a three point shooter.
He only shot like 28 percent from three with us, but he also had three guys breathing down his neck and could never get open. In AAU, when he had 31 in one game and like seven threes, it’s because he could actually breathe and shoot.
His passing is unbelievable, and his vision of the court and seeing the floor is great. I know it’s high school and he’s taller than everyone, but it will translate to college. Especially when you’re playing with better players.
Jay: I really enjoyed the conversation with Coach Levitch, especially the portions where he broke down Powell’s game outside of his shooting.
Powell’s play making and vision jumps off the screen every time you watch him, but Levitch’s mentions of Powell being able to play and defend 1-3 surprised me. Especially with Levitch saying Powell took guarding the other team’s best scorer personally.
Powell’s shooting is too good for it not to be my favorite part of his game, but there is definitely a lot to be excited about with Powell’s size, skill and the fact he might still be growing.
Drew: It sounds like Bruce Pearl got his hands on yet another versatile talent. Powell’s shooting may be his most well known skill, but his versatility could prove to be highly valuable to Auburn.
It’s not too difficult to see Powell’s vision is at a high level. Coach Levitch mentioned Powell was frequently “James Harden’d” and I think that’s a great comparison. You can see how he’s forced to make tough reads with multiple bodies flying at him on film, yet he has a poise and calmness about him that allows him to make the right decisions more often than not. With his ability to stretch a defense and the potential size mismatches he can create, Powell could be a big addition to the offense in multiple ways.
Defensively, I love to hear about Powell’s tenacity and pride in taking on opposing teams’ best players. I often hear comments such as “wear yourself out for forty minutes,” in pregame or halftime speeches from Pearl. Powell seems like the type of player that will buy into that.
I really want to thank Coach Levitch for taking the time for us. I love hearing what he has to say, and I’m ready to see Powell in an Auburn jersey.