TAMPA – For decades, Ernest Powell devoted his extra time to coaching young athletes in Florida.
For the past two months, however, serving as an assistant girls basketball coach at Jefferson has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his coaching career.
In October of 2013, Powell, 54, was diagnosed with cancer in his small intestine.
He had surgery weeks later, and on Jan. 7 he began chemotherapy.
As he recuperated, Powell kept tabs on the team’s success and was in contact with coach Mareka Davis, with whom he coached at Spoto High as the girls junior varsity coach. Rejoining the team, Powell said, has been therapeutic.
“It was motivation for me,” Powell said. “I wanted to get back here and be a part of it, not for my benefit, even though it is therapeutic because sitting around the house and laying in the bed can get kind of boring, but it’s good therapy for me to be around these girls. When I was away, they sent me messages ‘We miss you, Coach Powell, We Love You, Coach Powell.” That was a great feeling and great motivation.”
Powell made a surprise visit to the school for the team’s picture day a week after he was released from the hospital.
“I had never been so proud and honored to stand beside someone as I was that day in that picture,” Davis said.
Powell officially returned to the bench to coach with Davis on Nov. 22 against Chamberlain. The Dragons, who finished 7-14 last season, are 17-6 and 10-3 in district play.
“Being with the kids keeps me in a positive outlook,” Powell said. “I can overcome this, I can beat this. This is a great driving force.”
Whiting, Gregory approach 2,000
Seffner Christian senior guard Sabrina Whiting and Strawberry Crest guard Aliyah Gregory both have a chance to eclipse 2,000 career points this season. Whiting entered the season with 1,642 career points, and she has scored 307 points.
With the district tournament to begin next week, Whiting is 51 points shy of becoming the 11th player in Hillsborough County history to accomplish the feat.
Gregory, meanwhile, entered the season with 1,403 and has scored 408 points.
Reaching 2,000 was a preseason goal for Gregory, who is collecting donations for every point she scores en route to 2,000 to raise money for victims of domestic violence.
Henson a finalist for courage award
Former Sickles star forward and Duke University redshirt freshman Amber Henson has been named one of two finalists for the United States Basketball Writers Association Most Courageous Award, the university recently announced.
Henson has gone through six knee surgeries in two years after entering Duke with a knee injury suffered in high school.
Henson has played in 13 games this season and started in three.
The award will be presented at the NCAA Final Four in Nashville.