Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Arkansas hoops pledge Powell primed for big season
FAYETTEVILLE Veteran DeSoto (Texas) High School basketball coach Chris Dyer has had a treasure trove of talent in his 22-year tenure at the school, but only three players have ever started for him as a ninth grader.
One of those is junior star Duncan Powell (6-8, 200), a 2021 prospect who recently committed to Arkansas over offers from Ole Miss, SMU, St. Louis, TCU and Tulsa.
He is following the path that former Razorbacks point guard Jabril Durham and current Arkansas guard Mason Jones followed from Desoto to Fayetteville.
“He was on the varsity as a ninth grader,” Dyer said. “He actually played in our spring league as an eighth grader. He is a good kid, works hard, has unlimited potential, he is still growing - although he claims he is taller than what I list him as - and is only a junior. He really is going to be a very special college player.”
Powell, a four-star prospect, per ESPN, is coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 22 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks per game for a DeSoto team that went 29-8 overall and 15-0 in district play.
“His strength is a strength,” Dyer said. “He has some broad shoulders. We do a lot of work in the weight room, so that and his basketball IQ, which these days you don’t assume everyone has, are both great. He is a smart kid that really knows what is going on on the court.”
Dyer, who his 776-192 in his coaching career and winner of five state titles, stresses there is one specific area that Powell could developed in over the next two years.
“He does need to work on putting the ball on the floor more,” Dyer said. “He is a good handler, but he needs to work on beating people off the dribble. He is getting better, but at the next level, he has got to be better at creating his own shot off the bounce.”
Powell actually spent a month earlier this year at Huntington Prep in West Virginia before returning to DeSoto.
“He did attend prep school for awhile, but it was not because he wanted to,” Dyer said. “He has some circumstances that occurred and his mom felt that would be best. He was out there for a little over a month, had a lot of time for reflection and he called one of our coaches here and said he wanted to come back. My assistant was happy about it because he is actually from Arkansas.”
DeSoto’s season ended in the Elite Eight with a 61-60 loss to Duncanville, and Powell is the only returning starter on this year’s squad.
“We probably have more height than we have had overall in a long time,” Dyer said. “This could be a team that surprises a lot of people. “We had six seniors last year and all six are in college, either participating in intercollegiate athletics or on academic scholarships. That was a great group of kids.”
DeSoto will open its season on Nov. 9 with a game against Waco Midway in the Cowtown Classic in Fort Worth.
“This year we have a couple of seniors that have not really played as much as I would have liked, but they will have to play now and they have done a good job so far,” Dyer said. “It may take us before Christmas before we really start clicking. That’s when we start district play and that’s what we hope for.”
Dyer coached against Arkansas coach Eric Musselman when he was in high school.
“He probably doesn’t remember it because that was some time ago," he said.
He is also very impressed with Arkansas women’s coach Mike Neighbors.
“I met the girls coach this summer,” Dyer said. “Oh my goodness. He is something special.”
Dyer decided to retire last April, but circumstances changed.
“I did,” Dyer said. “Last April, I retired for the whole month of April. We had a great year last year, won 29 games, were undefeated in district.
“Long story short, I had a stint put in my heart because I had 75 percent blockage. The next day when I woke up, everything seemed brighter and better. So the day when my seniors signed in May, the superintendent approached me and said I would like for you to come back and I told him, ‘Let me talk to my wife, let me pray about it and let me talk to my cardiologist.’ I seemed to get a sense that all three wanted me to come back, and what else was I going to do?
“I have been here for 22 years, been coaching in Texas for 38 years and it just seemed like the good Lord wanted me to keep coaching.”
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