Story Poster
Photo by Auburn Athletics

Wake Up (12/25): Auburn's Justin Powell

December 25, 2020

It’s Christmas Day, one of the most exciting days of the year, might be second behind NBA draft day every year. If I’ve learned anything about basketball in 2020 it’s that we have seen so many breakout players and so many players flying under-the-radar because, with COVID-19, things have been extremely different.

With the NBA draft months away and the college season continuing, I will begin this series with tons of excitement and we will give you draft sleepers all year long.

The way this series will work is we will analyze several areas of each prospect's game and give you thoughts and background on each prospect we detail. Regardless if they’re on [mock] draft boards currently, if I believe they should be considered a draft prospect, you’ll hear about it.

For our Christmas edition, we head to the SEC where Auburn and Bruce Pearl may have gotten one of the biggest steals of the 2020 class in Kentucky native Justin Powell. Prospect, KY is the home of the 6-foot-6 guard that has been a stud for the Auburn Tigers this year.

Powell was labeled as a four-star recruit by several outlets and was ranked as high as a Top-80 prospect. He attended Trinity High School (KY) for his first two high school seasons before transferring to the national powerhouse, Montverde Academy (FL), where he teamed up with Precious Achiuwa (Miami Heat first-rounder), Cade Cunningham, Moses Moody, and plenty of more high-level prospects.

He would end up making a return to Kentucky to play at North Oldham High School where he was averaging 22.7 points and nearly eight rebounds a game before having his senior campaign cut short due to a Sports Hernia injury. Powell was rising on boards and had drawn looks from schools like Georgia, Kentucky, Syracuse, Purdue, Vanderbilt, others.

Fast forward to the present day. Auburn is without five-star recruit Sharife Cooper and is figuring out life without Issac Okoro, Austin Wiley, Daniel Purifoy, Samir Doughty, and others. Who has helped lead them to an early 6-2 record? True freshman Justin Powell.

In his first eight games, five of those in which he started, he’s averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and nearly five assists per game. Powell has been seen as just a shooter but believe me, he’s proved that he can be much more than that and for that. I will show you why Justin Powell can be considered as a sleeper draft prospect.


I’m going to start with the more obvious area that Powell excels in and that’s his scoring ability. Obviously being a multi-dimensional scorer, we’ve seen his ability to score on multiple levels, and I’ve seen many flashes of high school Justin Powell this season with Auburn. He’s a very fluid scorer and plays with so much poise on the offensive end.

He’s an excellent scorer off the dribble and is a matchup nightmare just due to his quick release off the catch and off the dribble. I think with Powell his outside shooting is going to take him places in this game but as far as maintaining that skill and advancing level-wise you have to be able to be flexible and he’s been able to display his ability to score on all levels and that is including points in the paint, and that’s where my next point becomes useful.

Powell has also developed physically since arriving at Auburn and I’ve noticed a major leap in his development. In watching Powell in high school and now watching him with the Tigers, I’m seeing much more explosiveness and versatility, he’s also sharpened his handle on top of that and he’s become a much more aggressive scorer and has shown his ability to get to the rim and get a bucket.

With the season moving along at a quick rate, I expect continuous growth from Powell in the scoring area. He was scoring anywhere from 7-8 points per game off the bench in his first three college appearances. After becoming a starter, in five games, Powell scored 26 points in back-to-back games and is continuing to be that scoring threat for the Tigers.


I mentioned this when discussing his scoring but man, Powell has become way more explosive than he was at the high school level and he’s used it to his advantage not only in the scoring area but on both the defensive end and also in terms of his playmaking.

This season, Powell is averaging five assists per contest. His ability to read an offense and find his teammates has been noticed. In his last two games, Powell has totaled 13 assists and has looked the part of an elite playmaker at the Division One level. He’s been making very nice reads and has been able to find his defenders and make extremely sharp and pinpoint passes.

Bruce Pearl has been using Powell in the pick-and-roll and Powell has done a very nice job in finding his teammates off the screen and it has lead to scoring for the Tigers. Point is, Powell has been seen as a primary scorer but this year I would label him as an offensive threat all due to the fact that he’s expanded his game and has turned himself into a polished all-around threat on that end.

In addition, playmaking-wise, Powell like I mentioned earlier, has sharpened up his handle. Along with that quickness with his sharp dribbling, he’s created tons of scoring opportunities for himself and is super explosive. I’ll say it again, he’s an absolute nightmare to play against just because he’s a multi-dimensional offensive player.

He’s extremely explosive and uses that quick first step to create scoring opportunities for both himself and his teammates. You’re pretty much in a lose-lose because if you guard Powell tight you have to be aware of that quick first-step and his playmaking ability. If you give him as much as an inch of space, Powell is launching with that quick release.


Powell continues to show improvement on the defensive end as well. It seems as if he’s adjusting and it’s happening early for the Tigers. Quick feet and Powell with no shortage of size standing at about 6-foot-6. We’ve seen him record multi-steal games and the defensive end is an area that I expect Powell to grow in.

In each of Auburn’s last three games, Powell has been able to record at least one steal per game. Not an eye-popping stat but his ability to read passing lanes and use his quickness to catch the defense off guard has been impressive to me.

I think it will be interesting as SEC play approaches to see how Powell is able to stand his ground against the elite competition and toughness in the Southeastern Conference. He doesn’t lack size and Auburn usually does very well developing players physically and Powell has clearly added muscle since arriving on campus this summer.

Overall, I chose Justin Powell for this series because I believe he could be considered as a draft prospect even for next year. Nobody expected him to come in and put up numbers like this right away, even the people who have seen Powell play prior.

Obviously, with departures and guys like Sharife Cooper being out, it has given Powell the chance to cement his spot as one of the SEC’s top freshmen prospects. I think he will continue to get looks from the NBA as he continues to strive under Bruce Pearl, a guy who continues to bring professional basketball players to Auburn.

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.