Powell happily takes fifth starting spot at Math, Civics & Sciences Charter

Will Williams (left) is a big fan, and housemate, of Jeffon Powell, the newest starter at Math, Civics & Sciences Charter.
Will Williams (left) is a big fan, and housemate, of Jeffon Powell, the newest starter at Math, Civics & Sciences Charter. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: March 20, 2012

WHEN THROWING around the we're-like-brothers designation, some guys are way too loosey-goosey.

Not Jeffon Powell. He lives in South Philly with the family of teammate Will Williams, and for the last 2 weeks, he has been the happiest guy in the house.

Powell, a 6-5, 200-pound junior forward, and Williams, a senior, deep-sub guard who's 10 inches shorter and weighs the same, are basketball players for Math, Civics & Sciences Charter, the defending PIAA Class A state champion.

Will the Mighty Elephants return on Friday to Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center to defend their title? We'll find out tonight at 6 o'clock at Southern when MC&S meets Constitution, the overall Public League kingpin, in an A semifinal. The AAA semi, set for 7:30 (same site), will feature Ss. Neumann-Goretti, the winner of state crowns in 2010 and '11, vs. Boys' Latin Charter.

Powell, often the sixth man, sometimes even the seventh, will be making his fourth consecutive start.

He suspects he has Williams to thank.

"I believe Will told the coaches I should play more, even start," Powell said. "That's how he is. Always in my corner. He's always giving me [positive] talk and lots of good advice."

Powell got his chance when junior forward Jeremiah "Lump" Worthem, who also happens to live with Williams' family, was suspended March 6 for violating a team rule. He missed the first two games of the state tourney and is now coming off the bench.

"When Lump was around, I didn't get much of an opportunity to show my game," Powell said. "When [the suspension] happened, they used me at three man and that's more my position anyway.

"It means a lot that I'm doing what I am - rebounding, playing hard, not taking any plays off. I knew how things would be when I came to MC&S [as a freshman]. Lots of players here. Have to wait your turn. Now I'm getting it and I'm making the most of it."

Powell was told of his starter status the morning after Worthem experienced his slipup.

"The coaches told me, 'It's your turn,' " Powell said.

That was it?

"Well," he added, "they told me, 'This is your opportunity.' They also said, 'Do what you do in practice. You're a practice player.' I was laughing at that one. I knew they were just bustin' on me by calling me a practice player. Trying to motivate me."

Williams does that nonstop, and not just with Powell.

"I'm always telling the guys they're better than they think they are," said Williams, whose father, Will "Chilly" Williams, is an assistant to MC&S coach Danny Jackson. In previous lives, he was a prominent Pub ref and in 1982 gained off-the-wall fame as one of six lefties on Southern's squad. The family lives on Morris Street, near 24th. "My main role is to push these guys. I build up their confidence. Sometimes they get down on themselves. Keep 'em humble and hungry.

"I didn't really push Jeff to the coaches. I figured [a starting job] would happen. I just talked to him. Pumping him up. Letting him know I had confidence in him. He knew he had starter's stuff all year. Now he's out there and he's playing at a high level."

As for Williams, he pretty much just roots. He owns 11 points for the season and eight came in nonleague games.

Why does he stick with it?

"I've loved the game since a young age," he said. "My dad always had me around better players and that gave me a high IQ for the game. If I do get out there, I try to produce as much as I can. Otherwise, my job is to push these guys and be a good leader on and off the court."

Entertainment figures into that mix.

"Will's a funny kid," Powell said. "He can get real silly. Cracking jokes. Imitating people. He knows how to keep things loose. And it's important to have those little moments at practice because we always go so hard."

Said Williams: "I'm a happy kid. Might as well make the other guys happy, I figure."

Williams, a top-notch student, has generated offers of partial academic scholarships from Benedict College, in South Carolina, and Johnson & Wales, in Florida. He plans to major in sports management.

"Maybe I'll go into coaching," he said. "My dad says I should go into reffing. I don't know. Could be rough."

Meanwhile, Powell said he expects to draw recruiting interest next season. Once the scholarship is secured, here's hoping he remembers to thank his brotherly teammate.

Online high school coverage at philly.com/rally.

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