During her college playing career at Stanford, Nicole Powell was considered one of the top women’s basketball players in the nation. A two-time All-American, she was a three-time First Team All Pac-10 selection, and was twice named the conference MVP. She left the program as the all-time leader in rebounding and is listed in 11 different categories in the school’s record books.
Before giving up her amateur status, she collected three medals while representing the United States: a bronze medal at the FIBA Junior World Championships, a silver at the Pan American Games, and a gold at the Women’s Junior World Championship qualifying tournament in Argentina.
Then Powell spent 11 years playing professionally, both in this country and internationally, after being selected third overall in the 2004 WNBA draft by the Charlotte Sting.
Today she is still a high-profile figure in the game as the head coach for the Grand Canyon University women’s basketball program, taking the reins last year as the Phoenix school began its first year of fully-accredited Division I play.
But, after all that, her accomplishments in high school haven’t been overlooked — or forgotten.
The graduate of Mountain Pointe High School in east Phoenix is being honored now by her induction into the National High School Hall of Fame, which was established in 1982. The national organization announced last week that Powell will be part of the 12-member Class of 2018, a group that includes well-known names like Tom Osborne and Dick Fosbury.
Osborne is one of the most recognizable names in the college game, leading the University of Nebraska to elite status. He spent 25 years on the sidelines and led the Cornhuskers to three national championships. Fosbury’s claim to fame came when he revolutionized the high jump by developing a new technique by which he cleared the bar upside down and horizontal to the ground. He used the unique style, which was nicknamed the “Fosbury Flop,” to win a gold medal at the 1968 Olympics. Fosbury just turned 70 and his technique is still used by today’s athletes.
This year’s class includes four athletes, five coaches, one contest official, one administrator, and a performing arts director.
But Powell’s high school resume at Mountain Pointe will stand up to the best of them.
The 6’2″ all-around performer was among the top multi-sport high school athletes in the nation. She competed in basketball, tennis, badminton, and track – and did them all well.
She set school records in basketball, finished her prep career with 2,478 points and 1,760 rebounds and remains today the state’s all-time leading high school rebounder and second on the all-time scoring list. The Pride finished up in her senior season with a 30-2 record, thanks in large part to her 21-point and 15.5-rebound average for the season.
Powell played in three state championship games at Mountain Pointe, but was unable to add a state title to her list of accomplishments.
USA Today named her the publication’s selection for the top sophomore in the nation, an award she repeated as a junior. Also in her junior year, Powell was named Arizona Girls Basketball Player of the Year and Arizona Female Student Athlete of the Year.
In her senior season she was a Parade Magazine First Team All-American and was also named the Arizona Player of the Century by The Arizona Republic.
Less-publicized were her accomplishments in the other ‘minor’ sports. Powell was an All-Region selection in both tennis and track, where she won the state discus title in her senior year and also ran on the 800-meter relay team. On the tennis court, she was a state runner-up in doubles competition her sophomore year. And she won three state badminton singles championships.
That outstanding high school career turned out to be just the first stop on a long journey that wound through college in California and a professional ‘tour’ that included five different WNBA teams.
She has come home now to start on a new path as a head coach. But it’s nice to see her get some recognition for all the work she put into building that athletic foundation during the early years.
A place in the Hall of Fame is the perfect way to do that.
(Photo: GCU Athletics)