Leon Powe, in an interview a couple weeks ago at the Gym Rat Midnight Madness in Cherry Hill, NJ, told us that he picked California over North Carolina because other guys said they would go there too.
"They said they come to Cal if I did," the 6-8, 230 pound power forward from Oakland Tech (CA) High School said. "I committed there instead of North Carolina and then watched to see what happened."
Two of his Oakland Slam 'N Jam teammates did follow his lead as Ayinde Ubaka, a 6-0 point guard, and Wes Washington, a 6-3 swingman, both verbally committed to the PAC-10 program. Both played in the Gym Rat final game with Washington leading the winning squad with 33 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Ubaka added 16 points, three assists and five steals.
Since then, Washington found out that he wouldn't be able to attend Cal because of some academic shortcomings. He had an official visit to Minnesota last weekend and according to the The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune told Gophers' coach Don Monson that he wants to attend Minnesota next fall. Washington told reporter Jeff Shelman, "I'm about 90 percent sure I want to come." Powe was not able to participate in the South Jersey annual event. He was about a week away from being cleared to start full play. Powe tore knee ligaments this past April at a tournament in Houston.
Powe said he'd learned a lot from his injury. "It was the third tournament in a row and my legs were tired," he said. "I never want to go through this again. It's been a lot of tough work. I know I have to take better care of myself. I never want to go through this again," he reiterated.
Powe was making his third trip to the Gym Rat event which includes an SAT prep class. "That's been really helpful," he noted. He joins Texas sophomore lead guard T.J. Ford as one of the national players who have trekked to the Cherry Hill East High School gym three years in a row. "It's always fun. There's a lot of great competition," he added.
Last month, Powe was featured in a Sports Illustrated story on athletes who have overcome adversity. "It was cool," Powe said. "I told everyone that they would pick the picture with the flag and they did." The shot was of Powe crossing railroad tracks and shooting a red, white and blue ball at phone lines with a U.S. flag draped over his shoulder.
Last season, Powe averaged 29 points and 15 rebounds and has raised his GPA to 3.2 from a 1.9 in his freshman year. RivalsHoops.com's number 11 player in the class of 2003 said he plans on majoring in business management.