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March 15, 2013

Powell to return for senior year

Dwight Powell, the only player to rank in the top-10 in both scoring and rebounding in the Pac-12, will return to Stanford for his senior season.

Powell announced his decision on Friday afternoon in a press release issued by Stanford.

""The opportunity to finish my degree and do something special with these guys makes it an easy decision," Powell said in the release "I'm excited to continue playing with my teammates and know we have a great chance to achieve our goals. This offseason will be very important for me, in order to improve in several areas while further developing my game. The coaching staff has been supportive and instrumental in helping me make improvements and I look forward to building on that."

Powell rebounded from an injury-plagued sophomore season to emerge as one of the conference's best players in 2012-2013. He averaged a team-best 15.4 points and was second on the Card (behind Josh Huestis) with 8.2 rebounds per contest.

Given his rare athleticism and ability to flourish on both the perimeter and close to the basket, Powell was thought to have an opportunity to be a late first-round draft pick if he decided to forego his final season of collegiate eligibility.

""We are obviously excited to have Dwight return for his senior season," said head coach Johnny Dawkins. "Dwight fully understands the importance of earning his degree and is mature enough to recognize the support system he has in place here on campus. I know Dwight is determined to work hard at refining his game and improving on what has been a terrific junior year."

After a first-round loss in the Pac-12 tournament, Stanford won't make the NCAA Tournament, but could still be invited to a lesser postseason destination like the NIT or CBI. It's unclear whether Stanford would accept any postseason invitation.

Looking forward Powell's return, along with the expected maturation of players like Huestis, Chasson Randle, Aaron Bright, John Gage, and others, will create high expectations for Stanford in 2013-2014; anything less than an NCAA Tournament appearance would have to be considered a disappointment.

There's also the matter of whether Dawkins will return. While the prevailing thought has been that athletic Director Bernard Muir would prefer to bring Dawkins back, poor attendance and an early exit from the Pac-12 Tournament may give Muir pause. He declined to make a firm comment on Dawkins' job security earlier this week in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News.

"We've got work to do," Muir told the Mercury News earlier this week. "We'll visit and we'll continue to get us going, hopefully, much farther because that's the expectation. That's what Stanford's all about -- getting to the NCAA. It's part of the fabric of the place -- excellence across the board."

In any event, no matter who coaches the Cardinal next season, Powell's return provides a major boost to the short-term fortunes of Stanford basketball.


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