Meadowdale’s Gia Powell (2) looks to pass the ball during a game against Shorecrest on Jan. 5 at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Meadowdale’s Gia Powell (2) looks to pass the ball during a game against Shorecrest on Jan. 5 at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Meadowdale basketball star is a future Ivy Leaguer

Senior point guard Gia Powell is a standout on the court and in the classroom. She’s committed to play college hoops at Brown University.

Kevin Thompson recalls the first time he saw Gia Powell compete on the basketball court. It was a moment he had to wait for, but one he wouldn’t forget any time soon.

Thompson volunteered as an assistant coach for the Meadowdale High School girls basketball team at the time, and he tried to catch a glimpse of Powell while she played on a feeder team in middle school, but she wasn’t at the game Thompson attended. During Meadowdale’s tryouts the next season, the quiet but talented freshman couldn’t be missed.

“She showed up for tryouts and came in and did a perfect euro step on one of our seniors, and the head coach at the time, Arie Mahler, and I just turned and looked at each other and went ‘holy moly,’” Thompson said. “We were really taken aback by her ability.”

Powell’s freshman season was limited to less than a dozen games due to the pandemic, but once her sophomore season arrived, her performance blossomed, resulting in a first-team all-league selection.

Fatoumata Jaiteh, a former high school teammate, remembers Powell being quiet at tryouts as the team could barely get her to talk. But Jaiteh said Powell “showed up every day just to work hard in practice. (She) didn’t talk much, just got it done. She really stood out from everybody else. Her work ethic was insane.”

Powell continued to take her game to another level as a junior. She helped lead Meadowdale to the Class 3A state quarterfinals last season and shined at the Hardwood Classic. Powell was among the tournament’s leaders in scoring, made 3-pointers, offensive rebounds, assists and steals.

Meadowdale’s Gia Powell (2) chases down a loose ball during a game against Shorecrest on Jan. 5 at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Meadowdale’s Gia Powell (2) chases down a loose ball during a game against Shorecrest on Jan. 5 at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Powell said putting up double-digit point totals regularly may imply she always has to possess the ball, which a majority of the time she does as a point guard, but baskets are scored by creating opportunities for teammates.

“If I can pass it down low to Audrey (Lucas) or Sam (Medina), pass it to Mia (Brockmeyer) who can shoot, those things all open me up. But I feel like I’ve always just been able to create for myself,” Powell said. “As a point guard, you’re the facilitator. You kind of decide how you run things. And so I feel like, yeah, I open them up, but they open me up as well. … The biggest thing I’ve learned is just being a playmaker for my team, whether it’s me scoring the basketball or Audrey or Mia or anybody else.”

Thompson said the team played a different style under Mahler. And when Powell was a sophomore, he realized the team needed to get up and down the court faster to make opponents uncomfortable in transition. Once he was hired as the head coach in Powell’s junior year, he established that tactic into his team.

“Our offense is set where there’s usually four, five or six options in one set. If you don’t see the look in the first one or the second one, you’re still going to get a look somewhere in the third or fourth,” Thompson said. “So Gia is really good at seeing those options.”

Thompson’s offensive scheme puts scoring options all around the court in an attempt to keep the defense away from keying on a single player, but most opponents still put their focus on the Mavericks’ talented point guard. It rarely slows her down.

Powell averaged 20 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.4 steals per game last season and made The Herald’s All-Area first team. She’s continued building on her impressive stats this year, including a recent prolific scoring streak when she had nine 3-pointers and 33 points, 24 points and then 30 points in a three-game stretch from Jan. 2-6. She also joined the 1,000-point club in early December in Meadowdale’s win over Monroe.

Meadowdale’s Gia Powell (2) huddles with her team during a game against Shorecrest on Jan. 5 at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Meadowdale’s Gia Powell (2) huddles with her team during a game against Shorecrest on Jan. 5 at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

While Powell is a force to be reckoned with on the court, she also excels in the classroom, carrying a 3.9 grade-point average and being a National Honor Society member. Next fall, she’ll make the 3,000-mile trek across the country to Providence, Rhode Island, and embark on her next adventure playing in the Ivy League for Brown University. She toured the campus and was impressed by the institution’s open curriculum, which allows students to study topics of their choice rather than classes in a core curriculum that are required for all students. Though she’s interested in business, she said she’s also open to exploring different career tracks.

“It will be very tough, but I think being around people that are also very smart will help me,” Powell said about enrolling at a rigorous Ivy League institution. “To be able to have the opportunity to go to an Ivy League school, I feel like it’ll be a challenge, but I feel like I’ve always done better when there’s a challenge with that pressure. Having to balance school and practices I feel like has prepared me for that.”

Powell attended a California tournament with her AAU club team when Brown University assistant coach Tyler Patch watched her play. Thompson recalled the conversation he had with Brown’s coaching staff after they noticed Powell’s abilities.

“(Patch) literally described (Powell’s) personality to me on the phone, and I went, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing. Somebody actually saw who she is as a person (is) how she was on the court,’” Thompson said. “And I just thought, ‘Wow, she’s found a really great connection.’ And when I met Monique LeBlanc, their head coach, it was very obvious it’s a great connection for Gia. Long ways away from home but a great connection and great education.”

Meadowdale’s Gia Powell (2) contests a shot during a game against Shorecrest on Jan. 5 at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Meadowdale’s Gia Powell (2) contests a shot during a game against Shorecrest on Jan. 5 at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

The NCAA’s estimated probability for a player in women’s basketball to go from high school into a Division I program is 1%. Thompson said many comments he received from college recruits about Powell is that she’s too short. The 5-foot-8 senior hasn’t let desired physical attributes block her objectives.

“Nowadays coaches are looking for bigger guards, like the game has just grown so much,” said Jaiteh, who played Division I basketball at Northern Arizona University for two seasons. “You have 6’2” point guards and stuff, and she’s on the smaller size, but she completely makes up for that in the way she plays. She does all the little things, so I think Brown University, they’re really lucky to have a workhorse in Gia.”

Thompson believes Powell’s work ethic will help her succeed at the next level.

“Of all the boys and girls that I’ve coached through 20 years of high school, she’s the most diligent, hardest worker,” Thompson said. “She trains on her craft, away from the coaches and away from the school, more than any player I’ve seen. … Her life right now is focused and driven on her academics and to go on and play basketball in college and hopefully somewhere else at a professional level, and I will not be surprised at all if she can do that.”

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