February 11, 2009
When Mark White was a men''s assistant basketball coach at Mississippi State, he had the opportunity to coach Dietric Slater.
White is now the head men''s coach at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba and he has a player who reminds him of Slater.
White is reminded of Slater when he watches sophomore guard Qu''varius Howard, of Starkville, take the court for the EMCC Lions (13-8, 6-3 MACJC North Division).
"It''s a completely different level, but he just reminds me so much of Dietric just from the standpoint of he doesn''t shoot 3-pointers, he''s not very athletic, he''s not super quick, he''s not a great ballhandler," White said. "He''s not any of those things, but he''s one of those guys, like Dietric, that plays so hard and does all the little things and when the game''s over he''s found a way to get things done and help your team win."
Howard said it''s an honor to be compared to Slater, who played at Mississippi State from 2004-07.
Howard recalls Slater well from growing up in Starkville.
"He was always hustling and doing the little things to help the team win like rebounding, guarding the best player on the floor and getting the ball the basket," Howard said. "That''s a pretty good comparison to me. I take that as a compliment because he was a good player in the SEC and a lot of people liked the way that he played. Once I thought about it, my game really is compared to his."
Howard, who is affectionately called Woodie and Smiley, is EMCC''s leading rebounder despite being only 6-foot-2. He averages 7.4 rebounds per game.
His season high was 16 rebounds against Copiah-Lincoln.
"I always tell our guys you can''t get a rebound if you don''t go for the rebound and that''s one thing he does," White said. "Most of the time he''s in there fighting and battling and trying to get the rebound and that goes a long way. He plays so hard and fights and battles and that''s why he such a good rebounder."
Howard takes pride in leading the Lions in rebounding.
"Like coach said, it''s just a will to go get it," Howard said. "You have to have heart to go in there with the bigger guys to get the rebound. It means a lot to me. It means anything is possible. I just give it my all to try to get every rebound that I can."
Howard, who leads the Lions with five double-doubles, is also third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.8 points per game.
His scoring high this season was a 20-point peformance against Northwest Community College.
He''s attempted only one 3-point field goal all season and is more of a player who takes the ball to the basket. Because he shoots close to the basket, he''s shooting 54 percent from the floor.
"We always talk to our kids about playing to your strengths and staying away from your weaknesses and he definitely does that," White said. "He doesn''t even shoot the 3. He understands he''s not a 3-point shooter. That''s playing to strengths and staying away from weaknesses. Eighty percent of his shots are inside that lane. He understands that. He''s not a shooter. He takes it to the basket and that''s why he''s such a good field goal shooter. Of all of our guys, he definitely plays to his strengths and stays away from his weaknesses."
Defensively, he leads the team with 19 blocked shots and he''s third on the team with 37 steals.
As a freshman last season, Howard averaged 8.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He was second on the team in rebounding.
This past summer, Howard played for a Tennessee AAU team called the Mid-State Ballerz, who were coached by EMCC assistant coach Jeremy Shulman. His teammates included Cataurius Taylor (EMCC), Jewon Long and Jeff McClain (Murray State), Kevin Smith (Richmond), Josh Sain (Middle Tennessee State), Deveyon Hunter (Eastern Kentucky), and Matt Smigielski (High Point).
Howard has been called Woodie most of his life and he prefers Woodie instead of Qu''varius.
"It was a nickname that my grandmother gave me when I was little and it just stuck with me," Howard said. "Everybody just started calling me Woodie. Most people can''t get my name right and so they ask me for a nickname and that''s what I tell them."
Howard''s goal is to take his game to the next level and he said he''s being recruited by mid-majors and NCAA Division II schools.
If his game continues to be compared to Slater, he''s sure to play at a four-year college.