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Yazid Powell goes from despair to Division I commit

07/17/2018, 8:30pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

Yazid Powell (above) found out he was ineligible to play for Overbrook only days before the 2017-18 season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

How can you get recruited to play basketball in college if you’re not playing basketball in high school?

That’s the question Yazid Powell pondered last fall, after he was ruled ineligible to play in his senior season.

“I really thought it was over,” he said. “It’s like, everybody’s going to stop looking at me because I’m not playing my senior year. There’s a thousand of me out there…I was down, too, I was down. I thought it was over.”

Powell had spent his first two-and-a-half years at Boys’ Latin High School. But midway through his junior year, saying it “wasn’t a good situation” for him, Powell left Boys’ Latin and finished the year out at West Philadelphia High, though he didn’t suit up for the basketball team.

For his senior year, Powell planned on attending Overbrook High School. But West Philadelphia didn’t sign off on the move, nor did District 12, and the subsequent PIAA hearing -- in early December, just a couple days before the season began -- didn’t provide any relief, either.

Instead of being on a talented ‘Brook squad that eventually advanced to the PIAA 4A playoffs and won the first state playoff game in program history, Powell played out his senior season with Rocktop Academy (Pa.), a Northeast Philadelphia-based prep program that traveled the country, playing at events from Florida to Arizona to Nevada.

But, while Powell said he enjoyed his time with Rocktop, the calls from college coaches never came. So he had to do the one thing he didn’t want to do, find a prep school and move into the class of 2019.

After playing the April live recruiting periods out with the Philly Hurricanes, Powell picked up some D-I interest, from Central Connecticut State, Rider and Southern Miss.

While he was trying to set a date with the CCSU staff to see that school, Powell went to Rider’s team camp in late June, playing as part of a select team the Broncs staff wanted to see. When he was offered a scholarship that weekend, he committed on the spot.

“I like how [head coach Kevin Baggett] runs his program,” Powell said. “Like, you don’t work hard, you’re not playing. He doesn’t’ve got to have a good attitude, work hard and all that.”

Powell, who will attending Mt. Zion Prep (Md.) this fall, will be joining a Philly-heavy Rider roster next year. The Broncs have juniors Stevie Jordan (Conwell-Egan) and Tyere Marshall (Martin Luther King), redshirt juniors Ahmad Gilbert and Kimar Williams (Constitution), and freshmen Ajiri Johnson (Bonner-Prendergast) and Tyrel Bladen (Coatesville) all on the roster this year, and all should be around next season to help their new teammate get acclimated.

“I know Ahmad Gilbert, yeah,” Powell said. “I just knew of him, until I went up there, and we started talking from there and stuff. He was telling me how it goes, how coach Bags runs things, I was liking it.”

The Broncs are coming off their best season yet in Baggett’s six years, going 22-10 (15-3 MAAC), with the vast majority of the roster slated to return.

Powell, an athletic 6-4 guard, will be joining an experienced and deep backcourt, but that’ll give him time to learn and develop to prepare for what should be a much-expanded role by his sophomore year. With the ability to score from all three levels and defend both guard spots, he’s got the tools to be a successful player, but it’s still a steep learning curve for a player who admittedly only started taking the sport seriously a couple years ago.

He’s getting a taste of what it takes this summer, as he moved from playing with the Philly Hurricanes in April to the Under Armour-sponsored WeR1 program this July. Last week, he was in Atlanta with his new team; next week, he’ll try to help WeR1 capture its third straight Under Armour 17U title alongside Villanova commit Eric Dixon and high-major targets like Isaiah Wong (Bonner-Prendergast), Qudus Wahab (Flint Hill, Va.) and more.

“It’s a great experience, it’s different,” he said. “It’s real different. Playing with good people -- I played with good people on the Philly Hurricanes, but there’s high-majors and all that on the team.”

Just six months ago, Powell was convinced he’d never find a school. Now, he’ll get to play out the rest of July with one of the top AAU programs around, one of the few 2019 prospects out there who doesn’t have to worry about his recruiting anymore.

No longer an outcast, he’s a Division I commit.

“It’s kind of shocking,” he said. “A little bit.”

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