The Determination of Aerial Powers

The first time I remember seeing Aerial Powers, I was in the 10th grade at Detroit Country Day.  It was Field Day.

At Country Day, one of the biggest Field Day events was the slam-dunk contest. One representative from each class would compete, and it would get LIVE.

Country Day has been known to be an athletic powerhouse, especially in basketball. In that year’s contest, there was Amir Williams (now at Ohio State), Ray McCallum (now playing for the Sacramento Kings) and Bennie Fowler – the former Spartan Dawg turned Denver Bronco. And then, there was ninth-grader Aerial. She did not win, but she gave it her all.

That is how Aerial is. She is the definition of a Spartan warrior.

I can honestly tell you I do not remember becoming friends with Aerial. I remember having never talked to her, and then all of a sudden, we were friends.  In my defense, this is how I remember the beginnings of most of my favorite friendships. By the time I was graduating, and she was in the 11th grade, I considered her one of my good friends.

One thing I do remember vividly, however, was finding out in April of her senior year that she had signed with Michigan State. I remember being so incredibly excited that my friend was going to join me at my school.

I texted her something to the effect of, “Now I get to cheer for you for four more years!!!”

When I asked her why she chose Michigan State, she said it allowed her parents to come to her games, and she felt that MSU supported women’s basketball more than other programs. She also liked that former Country Day teammate Madison Williams played there as well.

Powers started at Michigan State the following fall. A few days before Halloween, right after coach Suzy Merchant had told her she was going to start as a freshman, she was at practice, when she went up for a rebound during a free-throw drill. She jumped up and her Achilles tore. She said that it felt like somebody kicked the back of her leg. She tried to stand up and could not even do a calf raise.

This may have slowed Aerial down, but it did not stop her: a true Spartan Warrior. She has always been like this.

“My best memory of Aerial was a game we played at Inkster High School,” said John Wilson, the JV coach at Detroit Country Day. “They were one of the best teams in Class A and had six or seven Division I players, starting with Crystal Bradford, who is the best player on Central Michigan right now. Aerial had an ankle injury and was certainly not 100 percent, yet she found a way to play her best game of the year against the best competition. The best memory is Aerial closing out on Crystal as she attempted a last second three-point shot to win the game. Aerial covered about 20 feet in what seemed like one second and blocked the shot.  I like this memory best because it was a defensive play that required nothing but willpower and hustle; it is my best way of remembering Aerial.”

I asked Aerial if there was any point during her recovery where she was “over it.” She said not once. She describes basketball as “her life”, and she took the time to renew herself to come back better, faster and stronger.  She was counting down the days until she could come back.

Boy, did she come back. Last season, as a redshirt freshman, Aerial was the first Spartan to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors as a freshman. She broke the freshman free-throw record with 107 made. She started in all 33 games, and led the team in points (13.4), rebounds (8.2) and steals (1.8). She broke Michigan State’s single-game rebound record with 18.

In true Spartan fashion, Aerial battled her way back from her injury to end up on top, but she is not done. As a redshirt sophomore, she is only going to get better, and I cannot wait to be watching from the stands as my true Spartan hero continues on her path to greatness.

Jordan Yagiela is the communications director for Impact Sports.

Photo: Nubia Buckingham/Impact Sports