SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — The tears are coming. They’re coming for Seton Hall basketball coach Kevin Willard, who already admitted he’ll be a crying wreck during Wednesday’s Senior Night ceremony. They’re coming for Myles Powell, even though he’ll try to hold it together.
And they’re coming for the 15,000-plus fans who will flock to the Prudential Center for a touchstone moment, a gathering whose meaning goes well beyond a game, even a big game against Villanova.
“I kind of don’t want it to end,” Powell said Monday, before practice. “I didn’t want my Senior Night to come.”
It’s coming, and its magnitude cannot be overstated. In the long and sometimes glorious history of Seton Hall basketball, there never has been a Myles Powell. He is the most-filmed, photographed and quoted Pirate ever. He is the undisputed face of his university, a title that goes to head coaches or football players on other campuses. When people in the far reaches of the country think of Seton Hall, they think first (and perhaps only) of Myles Powell.
It’s a responsibility none of us can imagine. And Powell, a Jersey boy through and through, has carried it with a combination of purpose and joy that sets him apart.
“A lot of guys can’t handle it,” Willard said. “I think he’s really embraced it.”
Example 9,234 came Monday, when Powell was asked about the stakes of Seton Hall’s game against perennial power Villanova (8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1) — an opportunity for the eighth-ranked Pirates to clinch the Big East’s regular-season title outright and earn the top seed in the conference tournament.
“Now instead of just being about the seniors, it’s about the whole university,” Powell said. “I feel like the story fits us because that’s what this year has been about.
“Now it’s about everybody.”
So true, but at some point, probably next season, Seton Hall will dedicate a game night solely to honoring Powell. At that time, his No. 13 should be taken out of circulation and raised to the rafters. No Pirate should wear it again. In case you need more convincing, here are 13 reasons why No. 13 should stand alone:
1. In his tweet last May announcing he would stay in college instead of turning pro early, Powell highlighted the opportunity to become the first member of his family to earn a degree. He referenced that again Monday. It’s an important message.
“My last two memories in the Prudential Center could be winning a championship and in May graduating from college,” he said. “This is what I came back to school for.”
2. He helped Marquette big man Theo John off the floor after a hard fall during Saturday's game. Much was made of the gesture, especially since John got into it with some Pirates during last year’s Big East Tournament. But Powell has been helping opponents up all season.
“You guys always pushed me to my best,” he told John.
3. Multiple times this season, he insisted that teammates join him on camera for postgame television interviews. During a Seton Hall women’ game at Walsh Gym (Powell is a frequent attendee) he reacted to a camera zooming in on him by grabbing teammates Quincy McKnight and Takal Molson and pulling them into the frame.
“He’s that guy,” McKnight said. “He never wants it to be just about him.”
4. He took six shots in a January win over Providence. Six shots. An All-American spent 34 minutes as a decoy, and loved it.
5. He led team U.S.A. to the bronze medal at last summer’s Pan American Games.
6. The Pirates’ record during his tenure is 84-45, with four NCAA Tournament appearances and the program’s first Big East regular-season banner since 1993. They’ve cracked the top 10 for the first time since 2000.
7. He’s on pace to finish second on the program’s career scoring list with more than 2,300 points and ranks first in 3-pointers made (343). With a moderate postseason run, he projects to finish no worse than second in games played and third in minutes logged.
8. He will become the Hall's sixth Associated Press All-American and, mostly likely, just the third Pirate to make first team. The last was Walter Dukes in 1953.
9. He made one of the most iconic shots in program history, a 35-foot pull-up from the left side that sparked Seton Hall past Villanova and into last year’s NCAA Tournament. The lighting bolt prompted announcer Gus Johnson to famously proclaim, “Trenton makes, the world takes!”
10. He faced-timed St. John’s standouts Mustapha Heron and L.J. Figueroa to thank them for upending Creighton Sunday, opening the door for the Pirates to win the conference outright vs. Villanova. Powell has befriended rivals all over, including Rutgers' Geo Baker and Marquette All-American Markus Howard.
11. His fellow seniors Quincy McKnight and Romaro Gill credit him with playing a key role in their vast individual developments. Powell has roomed with Gill for three years; McKnight is his best friend on the team.
12. He’s a Jersey guy who stayed home, committing to the Hall after a 16-15 season. In addition to his mom and dad, his high school and AAU coaches (Fred Falchi and Jimmy Salmon) will join him for Senior Night.
13. He’s been an eloquent spokesman for Seton Hall and for the collegiate model.
“I feel like I got everything out of college that you can possibly get,” Powell said. “I went about it the right way. I waited for my time. I’ve represented the university as best as I possibly can, my family as best as I can, my last name. I’m just thankful to be in this situation.”