HAMPTON — Deron Powers aspires to be Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year, so confidence isn't an issue. But no, he didn't envision his rapid ascent from college newbie to top scorer and team leader.

Hampton University coach Ed Joyner Jr. gave Powers the ball in the season opener against William and Mary. The coach and his 5-foot-11 freshman point guard from Williamsburg haven't looked back.

"After we finished the recruitment process, we were sold that he was the person, the point guard, that we wanted to bring in," Joyner said. "We've been telling him from day one that we didn't have a problem with him running the team, as long as he tried to get the job done. He said he wanted the responsibility. He took it and he took it running. He definitely took it running."

Powers leads the Pirates in scoring (11.7 ppg), assists and minutes as they embark on the second half of the season. HU (5-10, 2-0 MEAC) dives into the heart of conference play with home games Saturday against Morgan State at 6 p.m. and Monday versus Coppin State at 8 p.m. — the nightcaps of men's and women's doubleheaders.

"Coming in, I didn't think I would score the way I am now and have as much of an impact as I am now," Powers said. "I've really exceeded that."

Powers is one of eight new faces — freshmen, redshirts, transfers — on a roster that experienced growing pains through the first two months, as players and coaches learned each other and settled into roles and rotations.

Powers' role never wavered. He was the point guard from the jump. But his comfort level and effectiveness increased.

"Through the first half of the season, I've learned to live with his decisions," Joyner said. "I love the decisions that he makes. If he makes a mistake, it's an aggressive mistake. It's not one because he's backing down from anybody."

He added, "I thought that he would be good. I didn't know that he would progress this far, this quick."

Powers has had some remarkable performances in the past seven weeks: 22 points in a win against Howard in early December; 17 points and 10 assists, with one turnover, in a win against American; 19 points and five assists in a win against James Madison; 16 points and 10 assists, with two turnovers, in last Monday's win versus Quinnipiac.

Joyner wants Powers to balance scoring and distribution, but the calculus for his point guard doesn't rest with statistics.

"The body of work means more to me sometimes than individual stats," Joyner said. "Numbers don't lie, but they don't always tell the whole truth."

For example, Joyner can live with turnovers and missed shots from Powers, as long as he's being aggressive and forcing the action on opponents. Low turnover games, said Joyner, himself a former point guard, don't always translate to maximum effectiveness.

"The thing I came to him and said, if you don't have a turnover, that means you weren't being aggressive," Joyner said. "I don't want you turning the ball over, but that doesn't mean you were aggressive enough."

Powers is perhaps less attuned to numbers than his head coach.

"People come up to me and ask, how much are you going to score? How many assists are you going to get?" he said. "I tell them, we'll have to wait and see how I play. Whatever I come out with, I come out with. After games, I usually just get dressed and go. People have to come find me and tell me what I got."

Powers has been that way going back to high school. He played as a freshman at Bruton, then his mother, Eureka Powers, facilitated a transfer to Williamsburg Christian Academy with the aim of improving her son's academic focus and discipline.

"Deron's a hard worker, good personality, good teammate," Williamsburg Christian coach Chris Gann said. "He really fit in well at the school and was the type of kid that other kids gravitated toward. Basketball-wise, he's a winner. He's the type of kid that's going to find a way to try to make a play, whether it's a defensive play or a big basket or setting up one of his teammates. He's really centered on winning."

Powers attracted modest college recruiting interest. Hampton was the only school that offered a scholarship when he committed, though several others showed interest during his senior year — notably, William and Mary, Niagara, Florida Atlantic, VMI, The Citadel and Jacksonville.

"He was probably a little under-recruited," Gann said. "Obviously, I'm a little biased. But he kind of floated under the radar a little because there are a hundred guards out there that are 5-11 and his size. But as it works out, he had a great senior year."