The color of his uniform is not the only thing that has changed for Desert Vista's Danny Powell since last season.
The Mesa transfer has transformed his body, losing 20 pounds since joining the Thunder program over the summer, giving Powell a new energy on the court.
"I cannot begin to tell you how much of a difference it has made," Powell said during a recent practice. "I can get up for a rebound faster. I may not be the highest leaper out there, but I can jump and re-jump better than ever before."
The 6-foot-6 junior is down to 210 pounds after being a sluggish 230 when he averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds for a 25-win Jackrabbits squad last season.
"I never had anyone push me in conditioning like that before," Powell said. "I didn't like it and I wanted to stop before I started seeing the results and then I couldn't get enough."
The conditioning program was part of first-year coach Dave Williams' goal of making the team more athletic. It included running bleachers, road miles and anything else that produced a sweat and tested their lung capacity.
"We had to get some athletes in here," Williams said. "I don't know what happened to all the athletes in this school, but when we started we had only two players who could dunk, now we have at least nine."
Williams has even more in store for Powell in the months to come.
"I think he can be a 3 (small forward) or even a 2 (shooting guard)," Williams said. "If he can stay committed to the (weight loss measures) he could play one of those spots. That's how good he is on the court."
With the new quickness to his game, Powell averaged 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in the Thunder's first five games.
"He is just scratching the surface," Williams said. "When I first saw him I was like, ‘Wow, he must be a football player.' I was shocked when I found out he was a basketball player and we are lucky to have him. He is a pure player and he can score many ways, plus he is our best rebounder and our best facilitator."
While this is the first time Williams is coaching Powell directly, they were familiar with each other as they were both involved with the Arizona Magic, an AAU club team, but at different age levels.
"I knew he was a good coach," said Powell, who moved to the DV boundary with his mother, Dee Dee, in June. "I also knew that he makes you work hard, but I didn't know it was this hard."
Powell said the hardest part was the mental side of the conditioning.
"Instead of seeing progress you just saw all of the steps on the bleachers," he said. "It can be pretty hard on you when you are tired and don't want to do it anymore, but he is a good motivator."
Another motivator is the idea of playing Division I basketball. Plenty of schools are already showing interest. Pepperdine, Portland State, San Diego State and San Francisco are among those programs, but Powell is hoping for more.
"Coach Williams put it in perspective for me," Powell said. "If I want to play big-time college basketball I have to put in the work now. Whatever I do now will pay off later."
Williams' influence is already paying off for the whole team. The Thunder won four of its first six games and has shown a toughness late in games.
"The team has come together and the transition has gone pretty smooth," Powell said. "Everyone is buying into the system and we are getting better with each game."