“He said he always loved my game,” Howard said of Wilkins.
Howard describes himself as a back-to-the-basket center who can rebound, block shots and can make shots from up to 15 feet. He’d like to become more of a face-up player with extended range. He is very much what Tech needs. Yellow Jackets center James Banks is the lone post player on the roster, and if coach Josh Pastner can’t find a backup, the Jackets will likely have to play their familiar Princeton-style offense when Banks is in and another style when he’s not.
“ ‘I’m not going to sit you,’ ” Howard said Pastner told him. “ ‘James Banks can’t play 40 minutes by himself. We want you, and I can develop you into a really good player.’ He was always a fan of my game and he was kind of disappointed I committed to Ole Miss.”
Tech coaches also impressed upon Howard the improvement that Banks and predecessor Ben Lammers made working with assistant coach Eric Reveno. After averaging 12.4 and 6.8 minutes per game in his first two seasons at Texas, respectively, Banks became a starter for the Jackets, averaging 10.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, leading the ACC in blocks. He was also named to the ACC’s all-defensive team. Lammers was named the ACC’s defensive player and second-team All-ACC as a junior in his first season as a starter, Pastner’s first with the team.
Howard believes he can be a fit playing out of the high post, as Lammers and Banks have done.
Howard also addressed his reason for asking for his release from Ole Miss. He said it was not related to the team receiving a commitment from former Virginia Tech power forward Khadim Sy last Monday. He said he had been contemplating the decision for some time.
“It was just really I didn’t feel like I wanted to be there anymore,” Howard said.
Another intriguing element of Howard’s potential is that he has only played three years of organized basketball, he said. He had played football through ninth grade, he said, but was encouraged to try basketball. In part to honor his deceased father, who had also wanted him to play basketball, Howard made the switch. Given that he’s now 6-foot-10, it was a fortuitous decision.
“I wasn’t good when I first started, and once I got the feel for it, got around the right people,” he said. “I love it now. I wouldn’t go back to football.”