SHREWSBURY — There’s been a massive surge in interest in T.J. Power since the start of the summer.
It’s come from the college basketball ranks with the 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward from Shrewsbury vaulting from lightly recruited prospect in June to highly coveted one in August, when he received seven Division 1 scholarship offers, including four from Power Five schools.
And it’s come at the scholastic level, as well, with Power drawing the attention of prep schools in New England after leading St. John’s High to the Division 1 state semifinals last winter as a sophomore.
While the decision on where he’ll attend college is at least a year away, Power decided last month to transfer to Worcester Academy and reclassify to the Class of 2023. It was a thoughtfully made decision.
“It’s something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long time and I just think this year, especially with recruiting picking up, it was a good time to make the switch,” Power said Tuesday. “I’ve been talking to some prep schools, but Worcester Academy seemed liked the right place for me.”
WA proved attractive to Power for multiple reasons.
It’s close to home, making it easier for him to maintain friendships; he’s familiar with the school as his sister, Lauren, is a 2019 graduate; the uptick in competition for coach Jamie Sullivan’s squad will help his game grow; and, should the upcoming season be wiped out by the coronavirus, reclassifying gives him the flexibility to play two more years.
Power reached out to St. John’s coach Bob Foley earlier in the summer to let him know he was considering transferring and called him once a decision was made.
“He just said, ‘I wish you the best and keep in contact,’ and I said, ‘Same to you Coach. I’ll still be rooting for St. John’s,’ ” Power said. “It’s nothing against him or the school at all. I definitely have nothing but great things to say about St. John’s. It’s a special place. They gave me a lot, and I think I gave them a lot.
“I just think for my future as a basketball player, Worcester Academy is going to give me what I need to be successful with the competition that they offer and competitiveness in the practices and things like that.”
Power, who’ll turn 17 later this month, also conveyed the same message to headmaster Alex Zequeira.
It’s been an unexpected and unwelcome slowdown and/or shutdown for athletes across the state during the pandemic. Like everyone else, Power has made the best of a tough situation.
Although the AAU spring and summer seasons were canceled, Power’s team, the Boston Amateur Basketball Club, was able to hold some competitive, intrasquad scrimmages that were taped and sent to college coaches.
Additionally, Power, a T&G Super Team selection and certified “gym rat,” kept his game sharp by working out nightly on a lighted, outdoor court at the Shrewsbury home of buddy Paul Durkee.
He also played more baseball than ever, as a first baseman and outfielder for the Hudson-based Northeast Baseball Club, participating in tournaments nearly every weekend, including three in the South.
“It’s really a great program that Scott Patterson runs,” said Power, who pitched for St. John’s as a freshman. “They do a great job of putting kids in the right places and giving them the exposure they need.”
Power received plenty of attention during the Pioneers’ run to the CMass title in March as he poured in 39 points, including 23 in the final eight minutes, in a comeback win over Leominster in the semifinals and dropped in 16, highlighted by a pair of free throws with 4.9 seconds to play, in a one-point win over Franklin in the final.
Those performances undoubtedly made an impression on Bryant University, which became the first Division 1 school to offer Power a scholarship, on June 1, and Holy Cross, which followed suit two weeks later.
“Bryant and Holy Cross offering me early on was definitely a confidence booster for me,” Power said. “Just seeing that a program puts their trust in me and thinks I can be a big part of their team.”
That early interest combined with a push from Leo Papile, the founder, director and a coach of the BABC, helped raise Power’s profile nationally.
“Leo Papile has been around and is kind of like the godfather of AAU basketball in the city,” Power said. “Through the years, he’s collected a pretty impressive contact list of coaches, and just with him and the more we practiced and the more he saw me play, he kind of expressed to the coaches that, ‘You might want to get on this kid now.’ ”
That advice was well heeded as, in order, Iona, Marquette, Providence, Penn State, Boston College, Miami, and Iowa offered Power over the span of 18 days in August.
Although Power reclassified, he’ll be taking junior-level classes this year at Worcester Academy.
If he takes care of things academically — as one would expect of someone who regularly made the headmaster’s list at St. John’s — he could reclassify back up and head off to college as originally planned in the fall of 2022.
“So it’s all about flexibility,” Power said. “For me I’m going to take my time, look at all my options. … I just want to build more of a relationship with everyone and kind of observe as the seasons go on how the program is doing and how they build. And to get to know them academically, as well.”
One thing Power is looking forward to is participating in A Shot For Life’s annual 24-hour basketball game to help the Massachusetts-based nonprofit raise money for cancer research. The game is scheduled for Nov. 7 and will feature prominent high school athletes from across the state.
“I think it’s a great cause,” Power said.
Power has exceeded his original fundraising goal of $1,000, but, of course, wants to continue raising as much money as possible. To donate, click on the link at the top of his Twitter page (@tjpower14).
And Power is not only devoting his time and energy to the cause, he’s also made two donations totaling $70.
“I think if I’m going to ask other people to help me out with this, I should put my own money behind it,” Power said. “I think playing in a basketball game isn’t enough. To really get some progress done we’re going to need those donations. So I figured I’d pitch in myself.”
—Contact Rich Garven at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RichGarvenTG.
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