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Butler players Smeathers, Howard like league change


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Former Whiteland Community High School standout Haley Howard looks forward to her junior season on the Butler women's basketball team. Photo courtesy Butler athletics.
Former Whiteland Community High School standout Haley Howard looks forward to her junior season on the Butler women's basketball team. Photo courtesy Butler athletics.

Former Center Grove High School standout Andrew Smeathers is preparing for his junior year on the Butler men's basketball team. Photo courtesy Butler athletics department
Former Center Grove High School standout Andrew Smeathers is preparing for his junior year on the Butler men's basketball team. Photo courtesy Butler athletics department


Andrew Smeathers and Haley Howard in their first two years as Butler University basketball players have nearly run the gamut when it comes to numbers.

God-given leverage blended with athleticism and quality wingspans makes them viable options as a “4” on their respective Bulldogs teams. Meanwhile, ball-handling skills and a sweet perimeter touch allow them to take the court as either a “2” or “3.”

“I’m a basketball player. That’s the way I look at it,” said Smeathers, the 6-foot-7 junior-to-be who saw action in 20 of Butler’s 36 games in 2012-13, averaging 1.0 point a contest. “Wherever we need a body, that’s where I’ll play.”

Smeathers’ slow start to his sophomore campaign is largely attributed to the two surgeries conducted during the previous offseason to correct a condition affecting his hip joint. The onetime Center Grove standout’s inability to properly condition his body ballooned his weight to an all-time high of 189 pounds.

His current 187 pounds is misleading.

“We lift weights four times a week. Personally, it may not look like it, but my body is pretty strong,” said Smeathers, who now bench-presses 280 pounds. “I also do exercises with our trainers that are more muscle-specific.”

Howard, too, lifts four days a week, works individually with position coaches and partakes in pickup games on the storied hardwood of Hinkle Fieldhouse.

The difference is that the 6-foot Whiteland product is coming off a redshirt season after suffering a stress fracture in her left femur. As a freshman Howard averaged 7.7 points and 2.9 rebounds for coach Beth Couture’s team, but after scoring 12 points in a November victory against Kentucky Wesleyan she was informed of the severity of the injury.

No surgery would be required. However, the prescribed eight to 10 weeks of rest designed to put Howard back in Couture’s rotation sometime in January wasn’t enough, so she ultimately exercised her option to redshirt.

In June, she was cleared by doctors to train the way she had prior to having her season shut down.

“I can play and run now,” said Howard, whose first taste of open-gym competition in some time came Tuesday evening. “Sometimes I think, ‘Oh, my leg hurts.’ I mean, you always get aches and pains as an athlete, but I notice them more now.”

Both Johnson County products are excited about Butler’s affiliation with the new-look Big East Conference after one year of being part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Smeathers fancies himself something of a history buff, so playing at Georgetown offers the best of both worlds. Not only can he hopefully compete against the program responsible for producing, among others, Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson, but do so in the nation’s capital.

Until then, for Smeathers and Howard it’s about getting stronger and better.

Smeathers insists 2010 Indiana Mr. Basketball and former Ohio State star Deshaun Thomas has stopped by Hinkle this summer for pickup games, as has Georgetown sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, an Indianapolis native who prepped at North Central until spending his final year at prestigious Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.

Noticeably absent are moments of relief in the stifling warmth of Hinkle.

“I wish we had some air conditioning, but that’s part of the fun,” Smeathers said, laughing. “We’re just trying to get used to our incoming freshmen and get better ourselves. That’s what every player in college wants, to get out on the court and do whatever you can to help the team.”

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