Leon Powe was born on January 22, 1984 in Oakland, California. He attended Oakland Technical high school. This kid has had a rough life and has come through it a strong person and a gritty basketball player. By now, you probably know his story. His father bolted the family when Leon was two. And when he was seven, his home was burned to the ground after his younger brother, Tim, was left alone to play with a matchbook. Because they had no place to live, the family which included 5 children stayed in homeless shelters, shoddy motels, and wherever they could find a place, often all having to sleep in the same bed. Powe's mother developed a drug habit and child services put Leon and his brother in foster care.
Over time, that burden proved too much for Powe’s mother, Connie Landry. With no steady income to support her family, and a burgeoning drug habit, Child Protective Services took control of Leon and Tim, placing both into foster care. It was at this time Leon discovered basketball and excelled. But then heartache struck again. During his junior year in highschool, his mother died of a heart attack at the age of 41 just days before his team was to play for the state title. He had remained close to his mother and the loss weighed heavily on him. Just weeks later, he tore the ACL in his left knee in an AAU tournament. He came back to play his senior year on his reconstructed knee and was a Parade All American, a McDonalds All American and a top 10 prospect for college recruiters.
Powe played his college basketball for the California Golden Bears from 2003-2006. After his freshman season at Cal, he was named PAC 10 freshman of the year and became the first freshman in PAC 10 history to lead the conference in rebounding. In his freshman year, his gpa dipped below 2.0 and he was forced to sit out several games. Showing just what kind of determination he has, he improved his gpa to a 3.5 by his junior year.
But, he still had severe pain in his reconstructed knee and he had surgery for a bone graft to relieve that pain. His knee didn't respond and they operated again and reconstructed the knee for a second time, his third major surgery on the same knee in the span of 2 years. A lesser person would have given up. But Powe persevered and went through rehab once again and he returned to Cal and became a dominant force, averaging 20.5 point per game and 10.1 rebounds per game, becoming only the 6th player ever to lead the conference in both categories and was named a second team All American.
In his profile at Draft.net, they list his strengths as:
" Very talented offensive player with the ability to play back to the basket or face up ... Explosive leaping ability despite the knee injuries ... Has great quickness, and crafty at getting around defenders to the basket ... Has a nose for the basket ... Very competitive and talented player, a real difference maker on the college level ... Ball handling is very good for a big forward ... Shooting ability out to 18 feet is good ... Has great upper body strength ... Super long arms and big hands make him like a magnet grabbing loose balls ... Great motor, competes hard ... " His weaknesses boil down to the knee injuries and the concerns of another injury along with his size. He is a bit undersized for a PF but his long arms and strength tend to make up for that.
Powe entered the draft after his junior season and was taken by the Nuggets with the 49th pick and immediately traded to the Celtics. Danny didn't have any picks left, but when he saw Powe still available, he got on the phones trying to make a deal with any team to get him.
In Powe's first season with the Celtics, he didn't see much playing time but when he did get on the court, good things seemed to happen. Several times after Leon was a difference maker in a game, Doc said that he would have to find more playing time for him, but he never seemed to do so. In this year's summer league, Leon looked like he has made great strides over last season and should be in the rotation this season. He out played Greg Oden in the game against the Trailblazers and had a very strong performance overall.
His nickname in high school and college was "The Show." That is a great nickname, but the players on the Celtics' Summer League team his first season gave him a new nickname: "The Grown Man" because he is built like a Mack truck and is very mature for his age. I guess going through all the adversity has made him wise beyond his years as well as a very strong and gritty player. You have to pull for a kid who has gone through so much and yet has seemed to rise above it all.
He donates a lot of his time helping kids and does free basketball camps every offseason. He uses his money to help care for his siblings. He works very hard on and off the court to make himself a better basketball player and a better person. He is determined to make all of the teams who passed over him sorry they did so and somehow, I think he will.