Quiet confidence: Powers’ emergence sparking Sailors basketball
December 24, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs High School junior Robi Powers can speak three languages fluently, has honed his basketball craft in foreign countries and can jump clear over Kelly Meek Gymnasium.
Not literally, of course, but as one of the most interesting student-athletes on the Sailors’ campus, Powers also happens to be arguably the most athletic.
He walks with a quiet confidence — a newfound confidence — and flashes his incredible athletic ability in spurts, a flashing drive here, an alley-oop assist there. Some of his best highlight reels happen long after practice lets out, when others are trickling toward the locker room to get changed. He’ll stay behind with a few teammates and practice throwing down one-handed powerful slam dunks that look as easy as routine layups.
It’s all a little new to him, the leading scorer (17 points per game so far this season) on a team full of accomplished varsity stars, seniors like Brody King and Garrett Bye, who have been in the program for years.
Powers just burst onto the Sailors’ scene fairly recently. It’s a bit of a sudden rise to success that has been forged in an uncommon way.
Skills built in foreign territory
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There are 10 seniors on the 14-player Steamboat boys roster, four of whom are starters, two of whom have been mainstay Sailors since they were sophomores.
Then there is Robi Powers, the lone junior who gets to trot out in his No. 5 Sailors uniform as a non-senior varsity starter.
On this team loaded with proven seniors, Powers is a captain alongside King and Bye, elected by his teammates to represent Steamboat prior to every game this winter.
"I personally thought it was a big deal," Powers said about being elected a captain by his peers. "A team full of seniors picked a junior to be a captain?"
He sounds more proud than stunned, though.
On top of that, Powers sounds more confident than ever before.
A season ago he split time on varsity and junior varsity. On the JV squad, he was a standout starter. On Sailors coach Luke DeWolfe’s varsity, he was a sixth man off the bench averaging around five points per game.
He never felt fully comfortable in his varsity role, though. Powers admits he was reluctant to shoot and even more timid to speak up in a huddle or practice.
"I just didn’t want to miss because then it looked like I messed up," Powers said.
For the past three summers, Powers has been going to Costa Rica, boarding with a host family and training with Costa Rican national coaches and the Universidad de Costa Rica team, an opportunity found online by his mom, Laila.
There, he found his confidence. Confidence — a word Powers uses a lot when talking about his ascent to being the Sailors’ go-to scoring threat and team captain.
"I think it was a great opportunity to develop my skills," Powers said. "I just love my mom for giving me that opportunity."
He did a similar program in Spain and grew up speaking German and Spanish on top of English.
In the weeks he wasn’t training in Costa Rica, you could have found Powers nearly every day at Manic Training’s facility in Steamboat, working on his strength, quickness and explosion. If he wasn’t there, he was on the court, putting up shots while his family collected rebounds.
"I was in the gym so much," Powers said. "I do Manic four or five days a week. The days I didn’t want to go, my family was like, ‘You have to go. This is really going to help you.’ They, like, dragged me in there."
Winning is everything
The parental prodding has paid off so far. The junior has scored in the double digits in each of the Sailors’ seven games.
Powers nailed six 3-pointers in a loss to Class 5A Grand Junction in a 25-point performance. He nearly mirrored that performance in a 24-point, six 3-pointer outing against No. 5-ranked Palmer Ridge.
He credits his Christian faith above all else when it comes to his abilities on the court. Powers also said his varsity coaches have given him the green light to carry the Steamboat offense on his back.
"I think it’s a trust thing," varsity assistant and Powers’ head JV coach Bruce Alston said. "He has put in the time and he’s proven himself."
He hopes to average around 20 or 25 points per game this winter. Maybe, Powers said, it’ll earn him a Class 4A Western Slope League player of the year trophy and a conference title ring.
Those outside the program are starting to take notice.
"After almost every single game, whether it’s the other team’s head coach or assistant, they’ll come up and say to me, ‘Boy, that No. 5 is special,” Alston said.
It’s not about the scoring average or trophies, though, Powers explained. Winning is everything to the bonded Sailors team that has accepted a junior as one of its leaders. The Western Slope title is their goal.
"I don’t want to just go out on my own and try to score," he said. "That’s how we lose. I guess my job on this team is to score, and if I can score and help our team win, that’s what I want."