Drake Powell turns heads, discusses experience at McDonald’s All-American week

Powell showcased defensive prowess in McDonald’s All-American activities


In front of NBA scouts and amongst high school basketball’s biggest stars during last week’s McDonald’s All-American activities, former Northwood forward and North Carolina basketball signee Drake Powell put on a promising display of what he is and what he could become.

Throughout the three McDonald’s All-American practices, the scrimmage and the real game, Powell showcased his defensive prowess as well as his offensive versatility. Although he came off the bench and didn’t score for the East team in the actual game on April 2 in Houston, Powell still grabbed four rebounds and two steals in 17 minutes, helping the East complete a comeback over the West, 88-86.

Clips from the practices showed Powell’s ability to score in different ways, including from three, mid-range or driving to the basket. But, in the real game in which Powell played alongside other talented scorers, his ability to stay in front of crafty guards and contest shots from tall forwards and big men down low caught the attention of scouts, media and basketball fans.

For example, Powell’s defensive performance from the week earned him the “Lock-down Defender” Award from Rivals national analyst Rob Cassidy.

He was especially “lock-down” in the fourth quarter of the actual game as he intercepted an inbound pass at the 6 minute, 37 second mark, leading to a score from future UNC teammate Ian Jackson that brought the East within four points. Seconds later, Powell poked the ball away from Rutgers signee Airious “Ace” Bailey, and his efforts led to other stops down the stretch that allowed the East to come out on top.

Powell talked with the Chatham News & Record Friday about his McDonald’s All-American experience, including his approach to the game and the toughest player he had to guard during the week. Parts of the interview have been excluded for brevity.

Going to Houston with other big time players and NBA scouts present, what was that experience like?

It was great. Not just the game, specifically. It really started in practice. I thought we were very competitive, and we took the drills very seriously.

What part of your game were you most excited to show to the other players and the scouts that were out there?

Just everything, really. I just wanted to show them my two-way presence. I can pass the ball, score the ball, rebound (and) play defense. Everything that I normally do.

What was it like playing with and against some of the other top players in the country?

It was great. I didn’t think there was necessarily a bad shot that anyone could take since we’re all high-level players. I think if we worked the ball really well, we could get open shot after open shot.

Who was the hardest player you had to guard during the week?

I think the hardest player was Karter Knox. I think he’s strong with the basketball, and he can hit contested shots as well. So, I just wanted to make every shot he took difficult.

In the scrimmage, you assisted on a Jackson three, and Jackson made sure you got touches in the actual game, too. What was it like building that chemistry with your future teammate?

I think it’s good. We’re going to be teammates next season. I think us starting that chemistry on and off the court will be beneficial to us in the ACC as well as the tournament.

What is your favorite part of Jackson’s game?

I’d say his aggressiveness on offense. I feel like he can score the ball pretty well.

The biggest thing people pointed out about your performance in the game was the defensive impact you had. Why was it so important to you to show that part of your game on that stage?

Going into the game, I knew that it was going to be tough to get into my usual rhythm shots offensively since I had a lot of ball-dominant players on my team. But, you know I just wanted to find ways that I could help my team win, and that happened to be playing defense.

Your family and some of the Northwood community made the trip to see you play in the McDonald’s All-American Game. What was it like having them out there as you represented not only your name but Northwood High School and Pittsboro, North Carolina?

It was great having them support me at such a far away event. I’m just happy that they showed up. It put a smile on my face.

Between the practices, scrimmage and the game, what do you feel was your best basketball moment?

I think it occurred in a practice…I was coming off a screen from (Liam McNeeley). (Cooper Flagg) and (Isaiah Evans) didn’t talk through the screen because they didn’t know if they were going to switch or not which left me wide open, and I was able to hit a mid-range pull up. So, you know just two Blue Devils out there. I think that was a good sight to see.

What kind of advice or messages did the coaches share to you?

Just that you’re being evaluated by a different set of individuals. What the NBA scouts see is much different from what college coaches see.

What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?

I think that evaluation piece that there’s a difference between what college coaches see and what NBA scouts see. They’re just looking for you to make the right play.