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UCLA's Norman Powell revisits triumphant return to San Diego

SAN FRANCISCO – When UCLA guard Norman Powell went behind the back for a layup in a win over Stephen F. Austin that would send the Bruins to the 2014 Sweet 16, his friends and family were shocked. They hadn’t seen him pull the move off before, but it’s something he had stored in his back pocket for a while.

[Related: 12 Pac-12 men’s hoops games to watch in 2014-15]

Forget surprising people. Powell was just happy to be performing at a high level at the NCAA tournament games played in San Diego, his hometown. And there were plenty in attendance who knew Powell, as the now-senior gave out about 60 tickets to those tourney games.

“I know a lot of people were bummed that I didn’t choose San Diego State being the hometown star, but it meant a lot to go back and have my family be able to come out and support me,” Powell said Thursday at 2014-15 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day. “I was really glad that I was able to put on the performance that I did. I always had confidence in my game, and being in front of those home fans reminded me of being in high school.”

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Powell averaged 15.5 points per game in the two victories over Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin at Viejas Arena, San Diego State’s home court. On a team that featured three NBA first-round draft picks in Zach LaVine, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson, Powell finished second on the team in scoring that weekend.

UCLA faithful hope for more of the same in 2014-15 from Powell, who is the only player on this year’s team that has played in every game each of the last two years for UCLA. As such, the Bruins will be counting on him to provide leadership to a team that lost four main starters from a season ago.

[Related: Arizona picked to defend Pac-12 crown in 2014-15]

“That part of leadership is taking care of yourself, making sure yourself is in line," UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. "He’s done a very good job of doing that, and now he has guys that will follow him.”

With a bigger individual spotlight (NBAdraft.net projects Powell going 13th overall in the 2015 NBA draft), surely there will be even more friends and relatives who will want to see him in action this year. Luckily, Powell has an ace up his sleeve – teammates who are not from the area.

[Related: 2015 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament tickets FAQ]

“It’s great this year because we have a lot of international players, so I’m able to borrow a lot of their tickets for the game,” a laughing Powell said. “Tickets won’t be a problem this year.”

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