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Harcum standout Yazid Powell's "crazy" journey finds next stop

09/30/2021, 10:00am EDT
By Kevin Callahan

Kevin Callahan (@CP_KCallahan)

Yazid Powell’s “crazy” basketball journey just settled down.

After years of being on a seemingly endless revolving ride of high schools and colleges, Powell committed to Northern Illinois University, where he will have two years of eligibility remaining.

“For sure it is,” Powell said when asked Wednesday night if he felt his crazy – the word he used earlier this summer to describe his hoops odyssey – was ending. “I feel like everything is finally coming together.”

Yazid Powell (above, at the Brotherly Love Pro-Am in July), committed to Northern Illinois on Wednesday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Powell, who will play his second season at Harcum College this season, attended multiple high schools - but played at just two - before a year of prep school and then two junior colleges.

The 6-foot-3 guard, who landed on the D-I radar in July when he flashed in the JA48, a showcase featuring the top-ranked 48 JUCO players in the country, also entertained offers from the University of Maryland Baltimore-County, Jacksonville State, Morgan State, New Mexico State, Weber State and Florida International.

“I feel like this is just the beginning,” Powell said, “so I'm going to keep working and stay humble.”

For Powell, it's been slightly challenging for him to stay humble as a social media sensation. He lit up Twitter and YouTube while appearing on ESPN after he scored 81 points for the Community College of Beaver County in honor of his childhood idol Kobe Bryant. Powell even intentionally air-balled his final free throw to equal Bryant’s highest scoring effort in the NBA the day after the Lakers star died in a helicopter crash with his daughter in January of 2020.

“I was just actually talking about it last night with my friend,” Powell said about his memorable tribute to the former Lower Merion sensation.  “We were just playing around talking about when the last time we scored 30 points in a game and all that, and I was like, ‘I scored 81’.”

Last March, NIU hired Rashon Burno as its head coach. The former Arizona State assistant under Bobby Hurley replaced Mark Montgomery, who was fired in January after a 1-7 start. 

“I felt like every conversation was genuine,” Powell said about Burno, who played at DePaul where he led the Blue Demons to an NCAA tournament. “I felt like family and he made me feel real comfortable.

“Everybody made me feel comfortable from the athletic director, the academic advisor, everybody,” Powell added.

Powell, who was once committed to Rider, was impressed with DeKalb, Illinois on his visit.

“Everywhere you go you see red and black,” Powell said. “It's real nice out there.”

Powell relays to younger players about his wild journey and what he learned from his unusual path to D-I.

“I just try to keep the freshmen on point and make sure everything's cool with them,” Powell said. “I’m trying to be a leader.”

Powell’s high school journey began after playing two-and-half seasons at Boys Latin and then transferring midway through his junior season to West Philadelphia High. He did not play for the Speedboys and instead wanted to play for nearby Overbrook as a senior. Instead, the transfer wasn’t approved, so he ended up playing at Rocktop Academy (Pa.) while still taking classes at Overbrook.

He was originally a Class of 2018 recruit before reclassifying to 2019 with the plan to attend Mount Zion Prep (Md.). However, with an accepted scholarship offer from Rider coach Kevin Baggett, he attended Olympus Prep Academy (N.J.). But, then in fall 2018, he de-committed from the Broncs.

After the season at Olympus, he committed to Mississippi Valley State.

However, Powell ended up at Beaver County, where he honored Bryant with the 81-point game in 2020. 

Then, he contacted Harcum, the Bryn Mawr college which is Philadelphia area’s only Division I junior college and a pipeline to Division I under head coach Drew Kelly the past 16 years.

“I got a good relationship with my coaches at Harcum College,” Powell said Kelly and assistants John Ball, C.J. Scott, Terry Mazcko and Mike Cherry. “I felt like coach Burno would give me that the same energy they’re giving me.”

Powell averaged 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 17 games at Harcum while playing point guard.

“That's part of what I do,” Powell said about scoring as the lead guard. “Actually, every time somebody comes to see me play, they say they didn’t know I could pass that well.”

Powell is looking forward to playing two years in a row at the same school.

“I finally found a home,” Powell said about Harcum.

Yes, it’s been a crazy journey for Powell, who thought about not playing basketball anymore after not being able to finish his high school career at Overbrook.

“I'm happy,” Powell said. “Everything worked out, everything happened for a reason. And I feel like this was the reason.

“I just didn't give up. So I'm happy about everything.”

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