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Hornets’ star and leading scorer dedicating season to fallen uncle

LINCOLN PARK – On a Lincoln team full of playmakers, senior guard Norman Powell provides the most highlight reel material. The senior leads the Hornets with a team-high 20.4 points per game heading into Saturday’s Division II state regional finals against Fontana Summit at USC.

“This year, I’m really focused on winning more than impressing the crowd. I know that I can show out within the game, doing what I know how to do and what I have already worked on,” Powell said. “It shows that I am more than just dunks and highlights.”

Powell’s dunking ability is the most exciting aspect of his game. The combination of a tremendous leaping ability and large hands make spectacular dunks a regular occurrence for the Hornets’ guard, though his first dunk didn’t come until he was a sophomore.

“I had surgery on my groin to repair torn tissue and everyone said as soon as I came back I was a new person,” Powell said. “I don’t know if it just happened because of the surgery, but ever since then my vertical jump just got higher and dunking started to become easy.”

Powell said his favorite dunk of the season came in the state regional semifinals against Cerritos Gahr. In the first quarter of Lincoln’s final home game Powell intercepted a pass at half court and finished the fast break with a windmill dunk – his first in a game this season and one that helped him win a friendly competition with teammate Javonte Byrd.

“I have been waiting for a game where I had a big opening and no one was behind me to try and block me, because I wanted to be the first one to get a windmill,” Powell said. “The competition made me want to do something different – I had to pull out a little trickery from the arsenal.”

Powell threw home four dunks against Gahr and gets to the rim couple times each game on average. Though he can dunk in a variety of ways, all of his finishes are equally violent.

“When I’m on the court, I’m taking everything with me when I dunk the ball – everything that people say about me and the stress that has been brought upon me that day,” Powell said. “That’s why I dunk the ball so hard.”

Powell’s game, however, is not just limited to flashy dunks. The senior has a solid outside shot and a number of moves to get to the hoop – and has trouble choosing what offensive aspect of his game he likes best.

“I’m really 50-50 on it; it depends on how the mood of the game is and how I’m looking at the game,” Powell said. “It feels good when you’re hitting the three from deep and it’s nothing but net, but it also feels good when you’re dunking and the whole crowd is up and screaming.”

“I don’t have a fast first step, so working on my moves to get to the basket is one of the things I really focused on,” Powell said. “It was learning the different angles on the court, learning how the defense plays you, and seeing the play ahead of time.”

Powell had his pick of elite college programs and decided to stay in California, choosing UCLA. He picked the Bruins because of the campus and the program’s commitment to the classroom.

“They see potential and they want me to be one of the key guys going in, and they want me to start as a freshman if I work hard enough,” Powell said. “They see that I could be at the next level but they also are focused on education, because if you do that, you are set for the rest of your life because basketball is eventually going to end.”

Powell currently carries a 3.3 GPA and plans to study mass communications at UCLA. He hopes to commentate highlights when he is done making them and already has a broadcasting catch phrase.

“Every time I talk, I say ‘You feel me?’ and one day coach said, ‘Oh my gosh he dunked. You feel me?’” Powell said. “I guess that could my catch phrase because that’s how I always talk when something good happens.”

As Lincoln (31-1) has a second consecutive state title in its sights, the Hornets are still fighting for respect within the state. Powell said the togetherness of this year’s team has made the 2010-11 state run more meaningful.

“We focused this year on being a family more than just seeing what stats we have,” Powell said. “We’re all on the same page – no matter who is scoring and who is shining, we all want to win again.”

Lincoln plays 10th-seeded Fontana Summit (27-8) in the regional finals on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Galen Center. For Powell, returning to the USC for a second straight season means even more.

“My uncle passed away in the summer from cancer and he was a big USC fan, so I really wanted to go up there and get a win for him again, because I dedicate everything I do in basketball to him,” Powell said.

Powell’s uncle Raymond Edwards introduced the Lincoln senior to basketball at a young age. When Powell was eight, Edwards took him to play one-on-one at Municipal Gym in Balboa Park and it was there that his uncle saw a unique talent.

“He was telling my mom that I could be something special because of the way I played and that I had a feel for the court at such a young age,” Powell said. “From then on, he always tried to take me to the gym and tried to help me any way he could.”

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