Perhaps the most surprising roster move prior to the 2012 National Lacrosse League season was the trade that sent Shawn Evans to Calgary for the fifth overall draft pick, which was used to take Johnny Powless. At the young age of 18, Powless made his professional debut against the Philadelphia Wings on January 14, 2012. He proved his critics wrong with a hat trick and a pair of assists in the 22-12 victory, setting the stage for an outstanding rookie season. Although he is a year older, the second-year forward is still a teenager. He is younger than all of the rookies who Rochester selected in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft. Most players on the team have a nickname, and last season, the veterans began referring to Powless as “Pup,” a nickname they still use for team’s youngest star. “Yeah, they (make me feel like a kid), but it’s a lot of fun,” said Powless.
Last season, while Powless was competing on the turf on the weekends, he was also finishing high school. He had to balance his time between schoolwork and lacrosse practice. Now that he has finished school, he is able to dedicate more time lacrosse.
“It’s a lot better. I am just working now, so it’s not too bad. I can focus more on lacrosse,” said Powless. “I was only back for two credits. It wasn’t a full semester, so it wasn’t that bad.”
The Six Nations product, who was featured on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays after a behind-the-back goal against Toronto on January 27, 2012, didn’t let his “celebrity” status distract him from his schooling.
“People knew I played lacrosse and some teachers asked how the games were going and that kind of stuff. It was nice to know they supported me,” he said.
Now that he has graduated from high school, Powless wants to continue his education. He cannot accept a scholarship to play field lacrosse at a NCAA school because he is already playing professionally.
“I plan on going to Mohawk College right in Hamilton,” he said. “If I go to college next year, it will probably be pretty tough (balancing schoolwork with lacrosse).”
The most noticeable change in Powless is his size. He spent the entire offseason working out with Knighthawks’ strength and conditioning coach Matt Green. For three days a week, he was hitting the weights hard and working on his conditioning. As a result, he has put on more weight and has noticeably broader shoulders.
“We’ve mostly been doing weight lifting this offseason, and that seems to have helped me right now,” said Powless, who put on 20 pounds. “I think it will be a lot of help for me. Last year, I was a lot lighter and I wasn’t as strong so I got pushed around more. Hopefully, it helps me out more this upcoming season.”
Powless had a strong preseason. In two exhibition games, he had a combined nine points (5+4). In the 11-10 home win over Minnesota on December 8, he led the team with three goals and four assists. His third goal, the game winner, came on a penalty shot with 1:40 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“The players kind of looked at me, and then coach just said, ‘Go ahead and take it,’ ” Powless said about deciding who would take the penalty shot. “I was really nervous. I’m just glad that I scored.”
This offseason, the Knighthawks acquired former NLL MVPs Dan Dawson and Casey Powell. Powless was a mere 6 years old when Powell made his professional debut with the Knighthawks in 1999, and still hadn’t reached double-digits when Dawson, a 12-year pro, played his first NLL game in 2002.
“They’ve been there for so many years now. Just like a sponge, I try to learn from them, ask a lot of questions and watch what they do,” said Powless.
With one season of NLL experience underneath his belt and a championship ring on his hand, the 2012 NLL All-Rookie Team selection is looking forward to continuing his success in the upcoming regular season. He finished 2012 fourth on the team with 50 points (26+24).
“It gave me a lot of confidence playing well last year, but I still have to go out and work hard this season,” he said. “I’m going to try my best and play hard.”
The 12-page Knighthawks Insider appears in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle the Friday before home games.
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