Canadian-Born Dwight Powell Finding His Niche in the NBA
It was never going to be easy, but a journey that first started in Toronto, Canada, has taken Dwight Powell all the way to the greatest stage of basketball in the world. The journey definitely had its share of hiccups and bumps in the road, but the 6’11” stretch four is now starting to carve out a niche for himself in the NBA as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
On days like March 13, it’s hard not to see the emotion that this young man exudes when he returns home as a member of the Mavs. These are the days where the journey of the now 25-year old Canuck comes full circle as Dwight Powell returns to Toronto in front of family and friends to take on the team that he grew up watching and idolizing.
“It’s a blessing, definitely,” Said Powell on the emotion he feels whenever he returns home to play. “It’s always great to be able to play in here, in your home town and for my home town to be Toronto and to be in Canada, it’s truly a blessing to be able to come back here and play in front of my family and friends. Spend some time with them!”
Looking back, it really is amazing how far the Canada-native has come. Born and raised in Toronto, Powell would attend high school in Florida. Considered a five-star recruit, Powell was ranked as the nation’s eighth best power forward coming out of high school. He would go on to attend Stanford where he would stay all four years, prior to entering the NBA Draft. As he continued to grow as a player, not once has Powell shied away from what made him fall in love with the game in the first place.
“Vince Carter definitely played a huge role, the Raptors in general,” Explained Powell. “Growing up watching them and trying to catch as many games as possible. It had a huge impact on all of us, on kids in Toronto growing up in any sport.”
Drafted 45th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 2014 NBA Draft, Powell’s draft rights were traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team for which he suited up in Summer League. Before he could finally play his first career regular season game, on September 25th he was sent to the Boston Celtics where he was relegated to the D-League, only playing in five NBA games for the green and white before being on the move yet again.
On December 18, Powell was involved in a Rajon Rondo block buster deal that sent both the star point guard and the relatively unknown rookie packing to the Dallas Mavericks. Fast forward a few years and no one would have thought that Powell would be the one to turn into a key fixture on a Mavericks team hoping to get younger in a hurry, while Rondo, well it’s best to not revisit Rondo’s tenure with the Dallas franchise.
Throughout his grind to not only cracking the NBA, but finding a spot in an NBA rotation, Powell stayed humble to his roots, understanding the importance of giving back to his country. In 2015, Powell helped Team Canada win a bronze medal in the FIBA Americas Championship, attempting to lead his country to the Olympic stage.
“That is one of the greatest parts of this – to be able to represent your country,” Powell told BallnRoll. “Especially as an athlete in the climate of the world right now, to use basketball as a way to bring people together and represent the country you’re proud to be a citizen of. It’s a great opportunity and I hope we can get better moving forward and eventually get to that highest stage of the Olympics and succeed there.”
After a strong performance with Team Canada, Powell returned to the Mavs with even more motivation and hunger. He would open his 2015-16 campaign with his first career double-double (10-points, 10-rebounds) against, ironically, to Toronto Raptors. Following a solid year with the Mavs, Powell was rewarded with an extension with the team who granted him a shot at living his dream.
Coming into this season, the Mavericks were going to struggle. With another year under superstar’s Dirk Nowitzki’s belt and a team filled with an unproven supporting cast, the Mavericks not only able to string together wins, but even getting the occasional win seemed like the most difficult challenge in the world. Over the past couple of months, everything changed and since a very rough start to the season, the Mavs have been surging towards the final playoff spot, coming into Friday night just three games shy of the eighth place Denver Nuggets.
“We have come together as a team,” said Powell in reference to his team’s play over the past couple of months. “We are locked into our offense and our defense and our schemes. Paying a lot of attention to detail, as much as we can. We just got to continue to do that. We are a young to so we got to get better and there’s obviously going to be mistakes every game, we just got to do our best to learn from them and move forward.”
Amidst the run towards a playoff berth, Powell experienced a truly special moment just a few weeks ago when Nowitzki reached, in Dirk vintage style, the 30,000-career points plateau in front of a jam-packed Dallas fanbase.
“That moment was incredible,” Said Powell, remembering the electricity and buzz inside the building. “To see the emotion on his face and the emotion on [Mark] Cuban’s face and the emotion on his coach Holger’s face was kind of eye-opening to realize really how much he has put into it, the build up to that moment. It felt great to be able to be a part of that and to see him over the last couple of years.”
The motivation that a guy like Dirk provides for a still very young power forward cannot be overstated. Nowitzki has been a Maverick for 19-long seasons and his affect on the younger players is crystal clear.
“To continue to try and improve on this stage that he is at was really motivating for me as a young player,” explained Powell. “Trying to follow in his footsteps and those of the great players in this league. To see him on his way to 30,000 and to see him reach it now and every single day after trying to get better still even though he is a great, he is still trying to improve. It’s very motivating.”
Having a guy like Dirk around is the perfect fit for someone like Powell, still a young player out of Canada with lots to learn, but a player who has grinded and put in the work to one day reach the league and put on an NBA jersey. While Dirk’s career is slowly coming to an end, Powell’s is only just beginning and there is no telling what is next for the young kid from the 6ix!