Tamir Powell wasn’t sure he could do it.
His coach was positive.
Powell came into the Abraham Lincoln High School basketball program as a talented player, who because of his height, always ended up playing forward. But when coach Jamel Lindsey saw his silky smooth moves, he asked him to try point guard.
It definitely wasn’t in Powell’s comfort zone, but he was willing to at least give it a try to help the team.
“I was really nervous at first, I never played point guard and I was going to play it at the high school level,” Powell said. “I knew it came with a lot. I really didn’t know if I was ready. And coach constantly pushed me at practice. He saw me as a guy who liked to pass and get others involved, so I think that’s why he thought it would work.
“I didn’t know if it would work, but he did. He really put a lot on me because he wanted me to do it. He wanted me to succeed. He wants us all to succeed. He had confidence in me and that made me feel like I could do it.”
Lindsey has a good eye for talent, and the work Powell put in when he was a freshman and sophomore helped turn him into one of the top point guards in the Public League.
Last year Lindsey led a backcourt that helped the Railsplitters enjoy a solid regular season, and an even better postseason that saw Lincoln advance to the Public League championship.
In the title game, the Railsplitters fell in a close game to Imhotep Charter, which was widely considered one of the best teams in the state.
Lincoln returns with a lot of key pieces from last year, including Powell and his backcourt mate Matthew Williams, making the Railsplitters a team that could make a lot of noise in the Public League and potentially in the state tournament.
And now the point guard has all the confidence in the world, and after falling last year in the title game, he has a chip on his shoulder.
“I think losing last year makes us want it so much more because we made it there, but we didn’t get it done,” Powell said. “It makes me want it a lot. I don’t want to get back, I want to win it. I was real mad, it hurt. I think it made us all a lot hungrier.”
The desire is there.
So is the talent.
During his four years at Lincoln, Powell has developed all the skills to make himself a top player. Since he stands 6 feet 3, he’s able to bully smaller guards, which helps him get to the rim, but he’s also able to be a traditional point guard who gets the ball to the dynamic scorers around him.
He hopes that makes the Railsplitters tough to defend.
“My role is to facilitate and be the leader of the team,” Powell said. “Basically do everything for real, for real. But the players we have, it gives me so many options. Sometimes I’ll try to score early, and then when they (focus on) me, I get the ball to the other guys who are as good or better than me. We have a lot of guys who can score.“
So far this year, Powell has done a little bit of everything.
In the team’s opener, a close loss to West Catholic in a showcase at Archbishop Ryan, Powell played the role of facilitator and floor general. Second game, a victory over Bonner-Prendergast, Powell led the team in scoring.
Not only is he enjoying the chance to grow as a player, he’s happy the team is doing battle with top teams before the Railsplitters get into their Public League schedule.
“We have a really tough preseason and we do that because we need time to jell,” Powell said. “A lot of us have played together before, but this is really the first time we’ve all played together. Playing tough teams is only going to make us better. It will make us ready for when the season starts.”
Powell is hoping he’s able to pile up wins while getting noticed by colleges. His goal is to play basketball while getting an education. He has plans beyond college, too.
“I want to major in business, and after that I want to sell real estate,” said Powell, who lives in Germantown. “My friend’s mom does it and it’s a great job. I think it would be something I’d like.”
But before he sells homes, he wants to hang some banners in his house at Lincoln.
“Our goal is to win the chips,” Powell said. “Public League, city and state championships. That’s what we’re playing for. It will be hard, but that’s our goal.
“A lot of it comes down to me. I have to play well and I have to be the leader. I have to be the vocal leader. That’s not really who I am, but I know if I do it and get comfortable doing it, the rest of the guys are good. If I play well, I think we can do it.”