Story by Rich Fisher | Correspondent
Myles Powell graduated from Trenton Catholic Academy nearly two years ago, but the memories still burn bright for those he left behind.
They are the kind of memories that illustrate just what kind of guy Powell is.
“What I always remember about Myles is his smile,” said TCA Athletic Director Giancarlo Riotto. “Anytime you see him he has a huge smile on his face.”
“What I remember about Myles, and I still tell him this all the time, is what a big heart he has,” said Tracey Destribats, Director of Advancement for TCA.
“Myles is a charmer,” Iron Mikes basketball coach Fred Falchi said. “He’s a good looking kid, he’s got the smile. When he was in school, he knew what to say and how to say it.”
Sister Dorothy Payne, TCA president, recalls that “Myles is a people person with a very outgoing personality, and he has a strong faith in God.”
Hearing Sister Dorothy and Destribats speak of Powell, it should be no surprise he has continued his education at a Catholic institution.
“Myles’ faith plays a big part in his life,” Destribats said. “His parents instilled great values in him and he has matured so much this past year. One of his favorite Bible quotes is ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ I believe his faith has really helped him grow this past year.”
Powell, who could not be reached for this story, most likely leaned heavily on that faith during a post-graduate season at South Kent School in Connecticut last year. After breaking his foot, Myles gained 45 pounds and his college future at Seton Hall did not seem very promising.
Fast-forward through a grueling year of rehabilitation and extreme training, and things look very bright. When the Pirates season ended with a controversial NCAA loss to Arkansas on St. Patrick’s Day, the freshman ended up as Seton Hall’s fourth leading scorer with a 10.2 average after making just two starts. He averaged 23.8 points, fourth best on the team, and was third in steals with 30.
Falchi, who coached Powell as a junior and senior after Myles spent two years at Medford Tech, feels his post-grad year may have prepared him for the pressures of big-time college hoops.
“It might have helped him with the adversity in a way,” Falchi said. “After he gained all that weight and then lost the 45 pounds, he really dedicated himself to his body in the weight room. In high school he was very, very good and a lot of times he didn’t have to do the extra things. When you have more talent than most at your level, it makes it a little harder to do the extra things.
“We always talked, and he knew one day he was going to have to do the extra things on a daily basis. Probably after that happened, he realized ‘Now’s the time.’”
Powell’s hard work made him the Pirates’ most valuable reserve. His best scoring effort came in a 72-70 loss at Xavier on Feb. 1 when he scored 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting (6-for-12 from 3-point range). There were other highlights throughout the season.
“I think he had a great year,” Falchi said. “He had a lot of big games. It was a little tough, he came into a lineup with some experienced guys. Maybe he could have done a little more, but they already have a two guard there that kind of dominated the ball. Down the road I think he really will take off.”
No one at TCA doubts that, as many of the staff members continue to follow the exploits of their former hoop stars, be it Malachi Richardson with the Sacramento Kings, Richmond Aririguzoh at Princeton, Charles Cooke at Dayton or Powell.
“I watched a number of games on television,” Sister Dorothy said. “I think he had a tremendous year and was very proud of him earning so much playing time as a freshman. We have a number of people who keep in touch with him. TCA is truly a family atmosphere and we do keep in touch with our Iron Mike alumni.”
Powell has a special place in Riotto’s heart as he became the Iron Mikes’ first 1,000-point scorer under his watch as AD.
“We’re all very proud of Myles and support him 100 percent,” Riotto said. “I’ve been following his college career very closely and it’s great to see all his hard work in the classroom and on the court pay off. Any chance I have to catch a game on TV or check the game highlights on the Internet, I do. I’m not surprised by the success he is having at Seton Hall. Myles is ready to take his game to the next level.”
“To say we are proud of what Myles accomplished as a freshman would be an understatement,” Destribats said. “Myles had an amazing season. Just take a look at his Twitter account and you can see all the positive statements about his freshman year at Seton Hall. He’s been very impressive, and we can’t wait to watch him play next season.”
Powell has struck up a special relationship with Destribats, whose Facebook page features a plethora of salutes to former Iron Mikes now playing in college.
“That’s what we do at our school,” she said. “It’s not just getting them to college, it’s helping them before, during, and after.”
Destribats was a fixture at Madison Square Garden to watch Powell play in the Big East Tournament, and attended the season opener at Seton Hall. She has kept all his articles, photos and program books since he has been in South Orange and plans on keeping them for him. It is her way of treating him as he treats others.
“This kid has a heart so big,” Destribats said. “I watched him after his Seton Hall games and he would always stop to sign autographs or take photos. He also gave his game sneakers away to a younger fan after a game. That is Myles.
“I was watching one game and Myles helped a player from the opposing team up off the floor after a foul. The announcers commented on it, and said you shouldn’t do that during a game. But I thought to myself ‘Of course Myles would do that.’”
Falchi does not like to smother his players once they move onward, preferring to let them spread their wings. But he doesn’t completely cut the cord either. He reunited with Powell during a recent night at TCA to honor Richardson.
“We were always in touch I actually got to a couple games,” the veteran coach said. “I try to leave the kids alone a little bit but every once in a while I text them, tell them ‘That’s a good thing.’ If there’s ever something I thought maybe he needed to know, I just let him know.
“He actually stopped at school a few times. You get pretty close with your guys. Myles I’ve known since third grade, you kind of build relationships. The thing is, if they get too big will they stay in touch with you?”
Falchi’s last comment was said jokingly, but it can happen with some players. Falchi knows it would never be the case with Powell.
“He’s just a really good kid,” the coach said. “He still has a ways to go (in basketball) and I think he thinks he can do more, but he understands he has to wait his turn. What we try to tell all our kids is, he can use basketball to get an education and maybe, who knows, play overseas. But education is most important.”
Destribats texts Powell before and after Seton Hall games, and sometimes just during the course of a day to see how school is going. She realizes Myles puts a lot of pressure on himself, but is there to keep him level headed.
“I told him not every game is going to be a game where he scores 26 points,” she said. “I told him a year ago, he was at South Kent Prep School, and he forgets he is a freshman playing against great players. I always remind him that God has big plans for him. He is grateful for all the support he gets and comes back to visit TCA when he can. It’s like coming home for him.”