PITTSBORO — One of the best basketball players in Chatham County, and one of the hottest prospects in the Class of 2024, Northwood junior Drake Powell passed a major personal milestone last week.
Playing in front of a raucous home crowd last Tuesday, Powell scored a game-high 24 points, passing 1,000 for his career and leading the Chargers’ boys basketball team to a 70-17 win over conference opponent Cedar Ridge.
In 65 career games at Northwood, the junior guard has 1,026 career points, an average of 15.8 per game.
“Going into the game, my coach told me I needed 23 points to surpass 1,000,” Powell said. “I really wasn’t too worried about it. I just wanted to play my game, rebound, pass, score, play defense, do everything I normally do and let it come naturally. I didn’t want to go out there gunning for it, really. But when it happened, and I scored the point leading to 1,000, it was a great moment. All my teammates congratulated me and the fans had a lot of energy. I enjoyed it.”
Powell was the fourth Chatham County basketball player to pass 1,000 career points this season, and he was the third to do so in a one-week span. On Jan. 18, Seaforth junior Jarin Stevenson hit 1K in the Hawks 53-36 win over North Moore, and three days later Northwood senior Te’Keyah Bland passed the mark in a 69-35 win over New Hanover.
Entering Friday’s game against Orange, Northwood has an 18-2 record through its first 20 games. The Chargers’ only losses this season have come against Cannon Academy, ranked as the No. 6 team in North Carolina by MaxPreps, and Camden (N.J.), ranked No. 11 in the entire country.
Powell has been part of successful Northwood teams before. As a freshman in 2020-21, he averaged 11.4 points per game for the Charger team which made it all the way to the 3A semifinals before falling to Weddington. And last winter, Powell upped his scoring average to 16.4 points per game while leading Northwood to the fourth round of the state tournament.
Winners of their past eight games, the Chargers look primed for another deep postseason run, one Powell hopes they can finish off on top this time around.
“This is normally the time where some may get tired physically and mentally,” Powell said. “We just need to stay locked in and keep stacking days like we’ve been doing.”
Regardless of how this season ends, or the next one, Powell’s brighter days still figure to be ahead of him. A four-star recruit committed to UNC, the 6-foot-6 guard is one of the top players in North Carolina in the Class of 2024.
Powell recently rose to No. 35 nationally in ESPN’s player rankings for the Class of 2024, a jump that can be attributed to several different factors. The first and foremost is his lock-down defense, which has been on display against some high-quality competition this season, including D.J. Wagner — the No. 1 player in the Class of 2023 who is committed to Kentucky.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — Drake is the best two-way player in the nation,” Northwood head coach Matt Brown told the News + Record earlier this season. “He takes so much pride on the defensive end. I think that’s what makes him so special.”
The offensive parts of Powell’s game haven’t been ignored, though, and he’s continuing to make strides both as a shooter and a distributer. In 20 games, he’s made 24-of-71 threes (33.8%). He’s also been a fixture at the free-throw line, where he has made 79.2% of his 106 attempts, more than twice the next closest player.
Powell’s 4.1 assists per game are also up from the 3.2 he dished out a game a year ago. He’s had at least four assists in each of his last five games, including a career-high 11 in a 71-40 win over Williams on Jan. 20 and eight in a 82-63 victory over Person last Friday.
Powell figures to be a key piece whenever he arrives in Chapel Hill, along with the other members of the Tar Heels’ 2024 recruiting class, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation. Powell is one of four top-50 recruits currently committed to UNC, along with Ian Jackson (No. 3), Elliot Cadeau (No. 13) and James Brown (No. 48).
“It feels great being the No. 1 class,” Powell said. “I think we can have success as soon as we set foot on campus. I think we can make an immediate impact, whatever that role may be. I think the whole class has a winning mentality.”
North Carolina is also after another Chatham County junior to pair alongside Powell and the others — Seaforth’s Jarin Stevenson. The 6-foot-10 forward is ranked as the No. 16 player in the class, according to ESPN, and he owns an offer from UNC, as well as ones from Virginia, N.C. State, Georgetown and Missouri, among others.
Joining Powell and Stevenson — who were teammates at Northwood as freshmen back in 2020-21 — would be a coup for the Tar Heels when it comes to in-state recruiting. But before then, both Stevenson and Powell will play the rest of this season, and the next, for hundreds of excited local fans in Pittsboro and the surrounding area.
Those who wish to see Powell play this season have a few more opportunities left in the regular season. Northwood’s next game is this Friday at home against Orange at 7 p.m. The Chargers defeated the Panthers, 72-47, back on Dec. 14.
Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.
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