No way this kid is 17.
That was my first thought while watching my first San Francisco Pro-Am game at Kezar Pavilion, and the kid was Leon Powe.
I don’t remember which team he played for, all I remember is he was the best player on the floor. And this was in a game where the opposing point guard was Gilbert Arenas, getting ready for his first season with the Warriors.
(Side note: The Gilbert of that game was NOT Agent Zero. He wasn’t demonstrative, and in no way did he strike me as a future star. Powe’s team beat Gilbert’s that night, and the only thing that I remember about Arenas was that he was fast, but with nowhere near the perimeter game he has now.)
The Leon Powe that went to Cal was a pure power forward, a rebounder who could fill it up around the basket. But in this summertime contest, I had a front row view of a kid who could do everything. Not a bad shooter, could run and jump like crazy, even had a decent handle.
But most of all, he was big. Huge hands, and shoulders that I would need hours of weight lifting and Roger Clemens’ trainer to attain.
He also looked exactly the same as he does now. It’s uncanny, it’s like the kid was vacuum-sealed in 2001.
I never forgot that night at Kezar, and after that I watched his progress pretty closely. I started telling Carp, Mac and everybody else who would listen to “watch out for Leon Powe.”
I made sure to catch his appearance in the McDonalds High School All-American game on ESPN. I watched as he won freshman of the year at Cal. I cringed when he tore his knee up during his sophomore season, before coming back and averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game as a junior.
20-and-10 in the Pac-10 usually equals lottery pick, but Powe’s knee issues made him a liability before the 2006 draft, where we went in the mid-second round to the Nuggets before a draft-day trade to the Celtics.
Since then Powe hasn’t really hit the court too often, until recently. Thanks to injuries sustained by Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins, Leon “The Show” Powe has been getting some run for the first time.
He took advantage on January 29 in a career-game against the Heat, scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 boards in a 117-87 win. This past week, he went 13/10 against the Clips and 16/8 at Minnesota, earning The Show his first start on national TV Sunday against the Spurs. Powe got in foul trouble in that game, unfortunately — not surprising given that he was the only inside presence Boston had besides Brian Scalabrine against Tim Duncan.
Still, I’m glad Powe’s finally getting a chance to show he’s an NBA player. I knew he had it in him, ever since he was 17.
(Update: Powe got another start tonight, and this time around he was a lot better: 16 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals in a 104-97 win over the Pacers…and more importantly, three highlights in a row on SportsCenter along with John Buccigross asking “More sugar, Mr. Powe?”…don’t ask.)