Oakland's Leon Powe signed a two-year contract with an option for a third year with the Boston Celtics on Friday, then said he hopes he can be an inspiration for young kids in his hometown.
"Do I feel rich? I feel normal still," the 22-year-old former Cal star said. "We ain't tripping off the money. I just want to represent young kids and put God first, let everybody know they can do it, too."
Powe, who grew up in poverty and overcame two major knee surgeries to become a second-team All-America at Cal last season, completed a five-game Las Vegas Summer League stint with eight points and six rebounds in an 88-85 win over Detroit.
Hours later the Oakland Tech High grad signed his first professional contract.
"It feels good, very good," the 6-foot-7 forward said. "All the stuff I've been through, I've got to thank a lot of people. I have to thank God and my brother, Bernard Ward. Without those two, this wouldn't have been possible."
Ward befriended Powe eight years ago and became his mentor and unofficial adviser.
"It's a beautiful day," Ward said. "He was in shock (Friday). He can't believe he's a pro. Through all the adversity, he persevered, and he came through."
The Pac-10 Conference scoring and rebounding leader last season, Powe was drafted in the second round, 49th overall, by the Celtics.
He averaged 6.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in 15 minutes per game in Las Vegas and dunked on
Powe said he got good feedback from Celtics management.
"They said they love me," Powe said. "I think I'm fitting in very well. I'm going to do anything they ask me, but I'm going to rebound, regardless."
Powe returned home to Oakland on Friday night, but he will go to Boston before training camp to find a condo. He said Ward will have an office in his home, allowing him to split time between the Bay Area and Boston.
"It's just a blessing," he said.