PITTSBORO — It’s hard to imagine how Northwood junior Drake Powell’s stock could go any higher after these past few months, but the 6-foot-6 forward recently earned an accolade even he hadn’t received before.
Last week, Powell was one of 35 players invited by USA Basketball to compete at the 2023 U19 men’s national team training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., beginning Monday, June 11. Powell is one of 15 players invited from the Class of 2024, along with fellow UNC commit Ian Jackson.
After the camp, USA Basketball will announce its final 12-player roster before leaving for the 2023 FIBA U19 Men’s World Cup, which takes place June 24-July 2 in Debrecen, Hungary.
“I'm very excited to be selected for the training camp,” Powell told the News + Record. “It's something I've been working toward — a goal in the back of my mind — for a long time now, and I'm just excited that the people on the committee who have seen my play are giving me an opportunity to show what I can do."
Since leading the Northwood boys basketball team to the 3A state finals this winter, Powell has seen his recruiting ranking skyrocket as he continues to put in work in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) circuit.
Powell has averaged 11.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game in the EYBL for Team CP3. After winning their first five games of the 2023 season, Team CP3 has put together an overall record of 4-8. Over Memorial Day Weekend, they were 1-4, with their lone win coming against Indy Heat, 79-76, on May 28.
“With the (EYBL) team aspect, overall, I'd say we're in an O.K. spot right now, but I think we can get to a better spot with more practice and we'll be able to build chemistry,” Powell said. “Maybe we can take a shot at Peach Jam.”
The Peach Jam — which started in 1996 but became part of EYBL in 2010 — will take place this year on July 3-9 in North Augusta, S.C. Last year’s winners, MOKAN Elite, consisted of players mainly from the state of Missouri. This year’s MOKAN team features a fellow UNC commit from the Class of 2024 in 6-foot-10 center James Brown.
Powell, Brown and Jackson make up UNC’s top-ranked Class of 2024. The Tar Heels maintained the No. 1 class even after the reclassification of point guard Elliot Cadeau, who recently announced his decision to join the team one year early this offseason.
Powell said Cadeau is a talented player who should be able to impress in his first season in Chapel Hill.
"He's a great lead guard,” Powell said. “He's pass-first, but he can score whenever he's needed to. I think he can make an impact and help the Tar Heels get some wins this year."
Another target for UNC in the Class of 2024 is Seaforth junior Jarin Stevenson, who plays just down the road from Powell in Pittsboro. The two were former teammates at Northwood in 2021, and Powell said he has tried to actively recruit Stevenson to join the Tar Heels.
Stevenson — who is also mulling the option of reclassifying — averaged 21.5 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game while shooting 60.1% from the field for Seaforth this past season. The Hawks (18-9) finished the year with a 61-60 loss to East Carteret in the second round of the 2A state playoffs.
"When we played at the Josh Level Classic (in May), I was in his ear about (committing), but we both laughed it off really,” Powell said. “I think Jarin's a good person, and obviously a very talented player. It would be great to have him at UNC."
Powell will be returning to Northwood for his senior season in 2023-24, and he should be in store for another stellar season as the leader of the Chargers. Through three seasons, Powell has scored 1,213 points over 75 games (16.2 points per game) and made 50.3% of his field goals. Northwood is 66-10 with two state finals appearances since Powell joined the team in 2021.