Prized recruit will cheer, rehab

Monday, November 2, 2009

Leon Powell will spend Southeast's 2009-2010 basketball season on the sideline

Leon Powell was considered the gem of Southeast Missouri State basketball coach Dickey Nutt's first recruiting class.

The Redhawks won't be able to take advantage of Powell's talents this season, but that hasn't diminished Nutt's enthusiasm for the St. Louis native.

"I feel very fortunate that we have Leon in our program," Nutt said. "I really feel like he's going to be a great player for us."

Powell still envisions that as well, although not as soon as he originally planned because of a knee injury that has sidelined the 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward.

Powell was among Nutt's first batch of signees after Nutt was hired in mid-March. Powell signed the first day possible -- April 15 -- after two standout seasons at perennial national junior college power Indian Hills in Iowa.

Less than two months later, Powell suffered a torn left ACL during a pickup game in St. Louis.

"I kind of figured it was going to be pretty bad," Powell said when recalling the injury that occurred in late May.

Following surgery, Powell has been undergoing extensive rehabilitation. He can often be seen working out on the sidelines while his teammates practice.

"I rehab twice a day," Powell said. "It's coming along fine. It's feeling good."

Powell is making such strong progress, in fact, that he even envisioned being able to come back before this season is finished.

Nutt appreciates the determination, but knows it's best to wait on Powell until he's totally healthy. Powell will be able to take a medical redshirt and still have two years of eligibility remaining.

"I love his attitude. He really thinks he's going to be playing in a month or so," Nutt said. "But the best thing is to try and get him as strong and healthy as possible.

"He'll be like a new recruit next year, and hopefully he'll even be able to practice with us some this year, which would really be a big help going into next year."

Powell ultimately agreed with Nutt that the wise thing is to wait until next year before taking the court for game action.

Not that it's going to be easy sitting on the bench in street clothes this season.

"It's definitely frustrating," said Powell, a two-time all-region pick at Indian Hills who helped lead Vashon High School to national prominence during his time there. "But I can give them advice.

"Coming from the programs I came from, I know the game. Even though I'm not playing, I can still help out."

Powell averaged 11.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore for a 30-3 Indian Hills team that was ranked second nationally. He shot 61.8 percent from the field.

"Leon was one of those key guys I identified and went after just moments after I was hired," said Nutt, whose squad plays the first of two home exhibition games Thursday against Harris-Stowe. "He was a focal point, to land a player of his stature.

"He's very athletic. He's an explosive player on offense and defense. He comes from outstanding high school and junior college programs. He's had great success everywhere he's played."

Powell, who turned down scholarship offers from several considerably higher-profile programs to sign with Southeast, said he's determined to return to full strength next season.

"It's definitely motivation, to keep my work ethic up and get back up to 110 percent," he said.

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