Raptors Rookie Powell Adjusting to NBA Life

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The NBA season kicked off only a few weeks ago, but for rookies around the league this time has been a whirlwind journey into their new careers. Toronto Raptors’ Norman Powell, the 46th overall pick in the 2015 Draft, is adjusting to his life as an NBA guard.

The reality struck Powell when he checked into his first preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers. He found himself on the court against players like Lance Stephenson, Austin Rivers and Chuck Hayes.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really here,'” Powell told Basketball Insiders. “Everyone is screaming your name, it was a real eye opener to me. My heart was beating so fast. I just tried to talk to myself and say I was mentally prepared for this. I’d put in the work for this, so go out there, play hard, and let the chips fall where they may on the court.”

Powell has been struck by the rapid pace of the game, a common challenge for many rookies. He watches the in-game adjustments Raptors starting guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan make for examples of how he can do the same. Powell also focuses on reading the game to facilitate easy plays and get to his spots on the floor.

“When I’m out there it feels like I’m going 100 miles per hour with no brakes,” Powell said with a laugh. “Everyone else is probably going slower, but to me it seems like I’m trying to keep up with them.”

A large part of Powell’s learning happens away from game action. He is averaging 7.8 minutes this season, so his experience has had to come from other avenues. Even though he no longer reports to study hall after practice like he did during his four years at UCLA, he still finds himself doing plenty of research.

“It’s about doing things outside of practice,” he said. “Coaches do a great job of breaking down film, studying the opponents we have, looking at the scouting reports to see who you’re possibly going to be guarding. (I study) taking away their tendencies, knowing where to be at the right time, and the defensive and offensive schemes.”

Powell is transitioning to life outside of college. He finds himself with more free time than he had as a student-athlete. The 22-year-old uses it to spend extra hours in the gym or rest up with a nap.

After growing up in San Diego, he is also getting acclimated to living in a new country.

“I’m trying to adjust to their culture and the way they talk,” he said. “I feel like Canadians are a lot nicer. I still haven’t done a lot of exploring, being a tourist yet, but I’m liking it.”

Until then, he’ll keep moving at his new rapid pace.