by Rodger Bohn

Canada has been hot as of late and it should come as no surprise. With better coaching at the grassroots level in a culture that has always had a strong love for the game, the country has straight blew up on the national level. With Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynk drafted in the first round last year, Canada should have a record number of players selected this year. One of whom is Stanford’s Dwight Powell.

Running with Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Nik Stauskas, Myck Kabongo and an eighth grade Andrew Wiggins on the AAU circuit for Grassroots Canada, Powell was a part of a Canadian team that surprised just about everyone when they took the adidas Super 64 crown in Las Vegas. Spurning offers from many of the elite basketball programs in the country, Powell (who comes from a family rich in academic tradition), opted to go to Stanford for his collegiate career. But his time of playing with future pros on the grassroots level definitely planted the seed to get him ready for the next level.

“The competition, seeing what the other guys did, and the paths they went down helped,” Powell said. “It was motivation and showed that it could be done.”

The motivation was apparent in Palo Alto. Coming in, he was a fluid 6-10 post with a world of upside. Leaving, he was a skilled power forward who could not only score with his back to the basket, but facing up as well. He posted averages of 15 and 9 during his junior season and was an all Pac-12 First-Team selection during his final two campaigns. More importantly, Powell spurned the NBA to return to return and cop a science, technology and society degree from one of the nation’s most prestigious universities.

“Obviously it was tempting and it was my dream to not only get to the NBA, but to play there,” the 22-year-old explained. “I had a plan and I just stayed focused. I’d think about it every day, but I have accomplished both my plan and receiving a degree from Stanford.”

Taking the next step toward accomplishing that dream, we met up with Powell at Impact Basketball in Vegas where he was getting his game right. Standing 6-10 and weighing 240 pounds, he has the ideal physical profile for an NBA power forward. After spending part of his time in college playing the 5, he’s working toward playing his natural position in the League with Joe Abunassar.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on on my ball handling and my shot. I’ve also been working on my reactions to different situations,” Powell said. “A lot of pick and roll stuff as a power forward. I need to be able to knock down jumpers.”

Based on what we saw in our two days observing him, he should have no problem knocking down jumpers at the next level. He shot the rock consistently from mid-range with fluid form and the ability to get it up over taller defenders. In fact, he even extended as far as the NBA three-point line during the drills and while he’s not going to be a 40 percent shooter from the jump, there’s certainly room for optimism that it will be added to his arsenal in the future.

Another aspect of his game that leaves a lot of room for optimism is Powell’s ability to do work from the elbows. He has a quick first step and definite skills to rip against smaller defenders. His back to the basket game is still developing, although he showed that he can still finish around the cup with either hand. It’s these skills, in addition to his athleticism and ability to run the floor, that Powell feels will surprise GMs during workouts.

“My entire game in different situations,” he said when asked what he’d shock teams with. “I think I’ll surprise them with my ball-handling and shooting, especially.”

Projected anywhere from the late first round to early second, this will be an essential month and a half for Powell. He shows out, he’ll be playing for guaranteed money. If he struggles, he could find himself as a second rounder. From what we saw, a team looking for an intriguing face-up four man would be a fool now to grab him in the first round. But no matter what, Powell accomplished his plan of the NBA and a degree from Stanford, something most could only dream of.