May 20, 2009
Tom Kelsey knows how to find players that fit his system.
When you like to play a 94-foot game like the Belhaven men''s basketball team, a coach needs versatile players who can play multiple roles.
Kelsey believes Woodie Howard fits that description.
Listed at 6-foot-2, the former Starkville High School product isn''t the tallest player on the court. He''s not the best scorer on the floor, and he won''t dazzle fans with eye-popping dunks.
But Howard can do everything a coach asks well, which is why Kelsey wanted Howard to join his program.
"The coaches we talked to raved about the kind of kid he is and all of the things he can do on the floor," Kelsey said. "They said when there is a play to be made he makes it."
Howard finalized the plan last month when he signed a national letter of intent to play basketball for Belhaven College.
Howard, who couldn''t be reached for comment for the story, was third on the team in scoring (11.6 points per game) and led the team in rebounding (7.9) as the EMCC men''s basketball team went 17-11, tied for second in the MACJC''s North Division, and advanced to the semifinals of the MACJC State Tournament and the NJCAA Region 23 tournaments.
Kelsey believes Howard, a second-team All-MACJC North State performer, can be an "impact player" at the NAIA level for Belhaven, which went this season.
"He is a guy we pinpointed right away because he it our style," Kelsey said. "We like to make it an athletic type of game where you have to make a lot of plays, and that''s why we need a guy like Woodie who can make plays for you."
Kelsey said he typically runs and eight- to 10-player rotation. He anticipates Howard will get his shots in a half-court set. He also said Howard will have the basketball in his hands and will be able to create shots.
When Howard doesn''t have the ball, he feels he still will make things happen.
"He is guy who gets you extra baskets that other guys can''t get because he hustles and is in the right places at the right time," Kelsey said. "
EMCC coach Mark White said Howard is such a tough matchup because he is a tenacious rebounder who has all of the intangibles a coach could want.
White credits Starkville High coach Greg Carter for helping instill those qualities in Howard and all of the Yellow Jackets have played in his program.
"He is a really, really smart player who will really help other players," White said. "He is a good leader and he knows what he is supposed to be doing and what the other guys are supposed to be doing."
White said Howard played most at small forward but that he can play any position. He said Howard''s versatility will serve him well at the next level and will make him doubly tough to handle.
"He''s one of the smartest players I have been a part of coaching," White said. "He is such a competitor. The thing that makes Woodie a player is that he plays to the strength of his game, which is so important. Woodie is definitely going to be missed by us and by our program. He has done a lot for us in my two years."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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