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Powell is back at LA

MERRY HILL – He is considered in some circles the best prep basketball coach in North Carolina.

Now he’s back home at Lawrence Academy.

Thursday morning, Warriors’ Athletic Director Robert Kravitz officially introduced Jon Powell as the school’s new varsity boy’s basketball coach. Powell, a veteran coach in the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association, began his career at Lawrence more than 15 years ago.

On Thursday, he returned to his alma mater and to the coaching ranks from which he had taken a one-year leave of absence after leaving Cary Academy to return to Bertie County.

“It was good for recharging the batteries,” Powell said of his season away from high school coaching. “At the same time, I went cold turkey. I didn’t see any games here.

“I don’t know anything about the program or the talent,” he continued. “I don’t know anything about the kids. I’m taking those as positives so we all get a fresh start.”

While he is returning to the site of his first coaching triumph, Powell said there will still be major adjustments.

“It’s gonna be different,” he said. “There are a lot of things that have changed. The school is different. The students are different.

“Certainly I’ll have some level of comfort because I’ve been here before, but there are a lot of new things to adjust to,” he added.

One of the changes is in the Tarheel Independent Conference, the league Lawrence calls home. The Warriors were members of a five-team league when Powell previously coached at Lawrence.

Since that time Northeast Academy and Hobgood Academy have joined the conference.

“Well, I know it will be different, but when I coached at Enfield Academy and Halifax Academy, I was in the Carolina Academies Conference (CAC) with those guys (Northeast and Hobgood), so I am familiar with the schools,” he said. “It will be different, but there won’t be anyone I’m not familiar with.”

After coaching the Lady Warriors basketball team to the NCISAA Final Four, Powell went on to Enfield Academy as Athletic Director and Head Boy’s Basketball Coach. From there, he went to Halifax Academy and then moved on to Cary Academy in June of 1998.

Powell said one of his proudest coaching moments came at Lawrence when the Lady Warriors advanced to the Final Four in his first season at the helm. The second moment came a few years later at Enfield Academy when he guided the boy’s basketball team to the CAC regular-season and tournament titles and then to a near-upset of top-rated Terra Ceia Christian School in the NCISAA tournament.

The third career highlight came when he led Cary Academy to the school’s first league title in his third season at the helm of the boy’s basketball program.

He said he believed his years at Cary, where he served as Athletic Director and boy’s hoops coach, were beneficial.

“For the past nine years I was coaching in one of the most difficult levels of competition in the state,” Powell said. “Pretty much every night we were facing D-I talent on other teams with size from 6’ 8” to 7’.

“I’ve learned how to coach against the type of opponent and that caliber of player,” he said. “I’ve been able to meet coaches, recruiters and talent evaluators from throughout the state and made some good relationships.”

Powell has also built a reputation for being one of the top coaches in the NCISAA.

“John is the one of the top x and o coaches in the NCISAA today,” said News-Herald Sports Analyst Mike Williams. “His teams have always shown class both on and off the court. They are always disciplined.

“I think he’ll do an excellent job at Lawrence,” Williams added. “He’s a perfect fit for Lawrence. He’s familiar with the area. He has tons of experience and I’ll say again he’s one of the top x and o coaches in the NCISAA today. Lawrence made an excellent choice.”

Powell said he appreciates the accolades he receives from the NCISAA community, but has a hard time with them at times.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said. “As much as I appreciate the kind things people say. It’s very humbling. It does push me to continue to work to expand my knowledge.

“My goal has always been for my players and managers to succeed and to leave with a wealth of knowledge about the game of basketball,” he said. “If I’ve had success it’s because of my desire to see the players and managers do well.”

Powell left Cary Academy last summer to return to Powell & Stokes, a family business in Windsor. He works in sales and product development.

Kravitz said when he had the opening for a boy’s basketball coach he immediately knew Powell could be the best candidate. It isn’t the first time Kravitz has hired a former Lawrence coach to return to guide a program. Mike Dail was chosen last summer to return to the football sidelines.

“The background at Lawrence certainly is nice, but it isn’t what persuaded me that Jon or Mike before him was the right choice,” Kravitz said. “You talk about talent with players, but you also have to look at talent in coaching and Jon’s accomplishments speak for themselves.

“Jon is a hometown hero, but like I’ve said before, I want to bring in the best coaches and put them in the best positions,” he continued. “This is the right step for this program.”

Kravitz said he expected only two things from his new coach.

“I’m expecting him to give his all and to get the best out of his players,” the AD said. “That’s all anyone can ask for and I know with Jon Powell, we’ll get it.”