SPOKANE — Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth and men’s basketball coach Mark Few announced the hiring of former Illinois star Roger Powell, Jr., as an assistant coach on the Zags’ coaching staff.
Powell, most recently the associate head coach at Vanderbilt, joins GU effective immediately.
“Roger is not only a great basketball coach, but he’s also a great person, which is of the utmost importance to our program,” Few said. “He has a great family. Roger was an outstanding player and has a tremendous work ethic. He is a perfect fit for us. We’re excited to have Roger join our program.”
Powell joined the Vanderbilt staff as associate head coach in April 2016. In his first season at Vanderbilt, he helped guide the Commodores to the NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt notched five top-25 wins, six top-50 victories and 11 top-100 RPI wins, played the toughest overall strength of schedule and toughest nonconference schedule in the nation. The Commodores led the Southeastern Conference in 3-point shooting, threes made per game and free-throw percentage.
“I am extremely excited to join a program with such great tradition,” Powell said. “I am really looking forward to getting to work, and for the future here at Gonzaga. I’m also excited to bring my family to Spokane and coach in front of the best fans in the country!”
Powell helped lead Valparaiso to 122 wins in his five seasons as a member of the Crusader coaching staff, including 28 victories in 2014-15 and a school-record 30 wins in 2015-16. Valpo captured the Horizon League regular season title in four of his first five seasons, while the Crusaders’ 2012-13 and 2014-15 squads also won the Horizon League tournament championship. The Crusaders have appeared in the postseason in each of Powell’s five seasons on staff, making two trips to the NCAA Tournament, two to the Postseason NIT and one to the CIT. Powell was named the top assistant coach in the Horizon League by Next Up Recruits in the summer of 2013.
With the Crusaders, Powell worked with both the post and perimeter players in skill development. He also is heavily involved with the Crusaders’ recruiting efforts.
In the summer of 2013, Powell served as head coach of an Athletes in Action team which toured Lithuania, and in the summer of 2015, he led an AIA team as head coach on a tour of Poland. He recently completed his third tour as an AIA head coach in Israel.
Powell attended the NCAA Leadership Training for future head coaches in Indianapolis last summer.
A three-year starter for the Illini, Powell earned honorable mention All-Big Ten recognition in each of his final two seasons after being named to the Big Ten all-tournament team as a sophomore. Powell helped Illinois to three Big Ten regular season titles and a pair of Big Ten tournament championships during his time with the Illini, as well as berths in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2003 and 2004.
Powell’s career at Illinois culminated in his senior year of 2004-2005, when he started all 39 games that season for the Illini, averaging career bests of 12.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Powell helped Illinois to the most successful season in program history, as the Illini won 29 straight games to open the season en route to finishing 37-2, spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and advanced to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament. Powell closed his four-year Illinois career with 1,178 points, among the top-30 scorers in Illini history, and 531 rebounds.
Following his collegiate career, Powell earned a spot in the Seattle SuperSonics training camp before eventually playing the 2005-06 season for the Rockford Lightning of the CBA, where he earned CBA Rookie of the Year accolades. He then made the roster of the Utah Jazz for the 2006-07 NBA season and spent the first half of the season with the Jazz before joining the Arkansas Rimrockers of the NBDL. Powell concluded the 2007 season with the Rimrockers, leading the NBDL with 22.3 points per game and earning the league’s Jason Collier Sportsmanship Award, which is awarded to the player who best represents the ideals of character and conduct on and off the court.
Powell spent time in the training camp of the Chicago Bulls in both 2008 and 2010, and spent much of his last four year professional-playing years abroad. He played in the top leagues in Italy (Teramo Basket), Israel (Hapoel Jerusalem), Spain (CB Murcia) and France (JDA Dijon). In his final professional season, Powell played for the Deutsche Bank Skyliners of the Basketball Bundesliga in Germany, where he helped the Skyliners to a second-place regular season finish and a berth in the league semifinals.
Off the court, Powell founded RPJ Ministries Organization, which mentors and trains young leaders to be Godly examples on their sports team and school campuses. He also founded Integrity Sports Corporation, a company focused on building basketball skills and integrity of high school and junior high athletes. Powell is a 2005 graduate of the University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign with a degree in speech communications, and also received his master’s degree in Sports Administration from Valparaiso University in 2016. While also at Valpo, he received a certificate in Sports Media.
Powell and his wife, Tara, have a daughter, Bria, and a son, Liam.