The best and brightest of the Pac-12 took to the stage at Pac-12 Studios in San Francisco on Thursday morning to introduce themselves to the country.
The biggest of the best and the brightest was also one of the more intriguing players in attendance.
Stanford's Dwight Powell, the lone big man at the event, scored and rebounded among the top 10 in the conference. A five-star recruit out of high school and a prize for Johnny Dawkins, Powell was the Pac-12's most improved player last season. It was a trying one for the now-senior forward, as Powell lost his mother during in September of 2012 to cancer.
Here, he discusses picking Stanford over Harvard, among other suitors, what it's like to play for the Cardinal and International Relations in Nuclear Physics.
“First and foremost was basketball. I aspired to be a Division-1 basketball player. But then obviously Stanford is one of the best academic institutions in the world, so the opportunity to play basketball there and get that education, I couldn’t turn it down.”
Was it as simple as…it’s Stanford?
“A lot of people say he’s going to Stanford because it’s Stanford. Is it that simple? Stanford is one of the great institutions in the world, but it’s not for everyone. Harvard is one of the best, Duke is one of the best – there are a lot of great schools – but my fit with the basketball team and coach Dawkins, and with the culture around Stanford, it fit me best.”
Walk around Stanford campus, and you see future business owners, dignitaries, Nobel Prize winners, award-winning cellists – is it weird walking around campus and knowing you’re not the only special one?
“At first you don’t even notice. When you come into college, that’s your first college experience, and that’s all you know. When I came in, they didn’t treat any of us different. Then I realized it was because everyone is special, everyone has something to be proud of, and it was a humbling experience. There are guys at other D-1 schools who leave early and go to the NBA; at Stanford, guys leave college early and start businesses. They’re one-and-dones, too.”
What’s your major?
“Science technology in society. It’s a hard major to define, there are a lot of concentrations, so my focus is more on the technology. “
What are your goals for the future in that major, or is the focus just on basketball right now?
“Really, that’s been my focus since I got into high school. School and academics interest me and I’ve been taught from a young age the value of knowledge, so that will always be a pursuit that I maintain, but as far as jobs, I don’t know any now. I don’t know where I’ll end up."
How does it compare when you walk around other campuses?
“It’s a very different feel. The way most campuses are set up, they’re set up for functionality. There are reasons buildings are in certain places so that students can get to some classes quickly and accomplish their goals with time management, but Stanford is designed differently. It’s called the Farm for a reason. It’s massive. It can take you 10 minutes on a bike ride going full speed downhill to get from your dorm to class. It can be frustrating at times, but it gives you time to sit back and realize where you are. You don’t rush through your day. You may have 1,000 things to do and 100 people to talk to, but you’re going to walk past a lot of great people and have the time to realize that."
What’s the hardest thing about being a Stanford athlete?
“I don’t think it’s any different than being any other student-athlete. I think it’s just about balancing your time. Placing your priorities early is very important. Developing a habit of getting things done ahead of time. I have a tendency to procrastinate – if it’s due on Thursday, I’m gonna do it on Thursday – but I had to get out of that. Stanford is no joke. You’ve got to be on your assignments early. You’ve got to get the help needed and you can’t be ashamed to say you need it. Nobody is going to come looking at you if you don’t understand.”
“Unfortunately, absolutely not. I’ve had many professors ask me what sport I play and I tell them I have a game and they say that’s nice. They take their jobs very seriously. That benefits all of us. They genuinely care.”
Ever think about what it would be like to go somewhere else?
“You think about it when you’re waking up at 8 a.m. about to go to three two-hour lectures. One class I took was international relations in nuclear physics. Lets just say that was a challenge. That’s one of the cases where I came in Day 1 saying, I need help. They said we haven’t had a lecture yet and I said I already need a tutor. You think about being somewhere else, but in the end, what you put into it is what you get out. It’s hard, but life is hard.”