The redshirt sophomore season Haley Howard envisioned a few months ago has yet to materialize.
Being a perfectionist and her own worst critic, the Butler University women’s basketball player tends to pore over the 15 starts and various per-game averages in order to isolate what she can do better.
“It’s not, for me personally, how I really wanted to do. I’m not playing as well as I would like, but I have had a few good games in there,” said Howard, a Whiteland Community High School graduate averaging 5.7 points and 3.6 rebounds for the Bulldogs.
“I thought I played well against Villanova and had a good game against Indiana State, too,” she added.
In Howard’s defense, the 6-foot forward is experiencing many things in her basketball career for the first time. Namely attempting
to body up bigger, stronger opponents while competing at a reduced body weight.
Butler’s move to the revamped Big East Conference has produced a noticeable upgrade in competition from the school’s Atlantic 10 affiliation during the 2012-13 season. By leaving the Horizon League, the move also boosted the status of the Bulldogs’ program.
Howard said she thinks she’s at her best when 155 pounds are scattered across her wiry frame.
This was the case 14 months ago as Howard, coming off an impressive freshman campaign in which she averaged 7.7 points, prepared for what would have been her second season in Butler blue.
After tallying 12 points in a November exhibition game, Howard received the heartbreaking news that she had a stress fracture in her left femur.
No surgery would be required because of the location of the fracture. However, simply
resting the injury for eight to 10 weeks as was originally diagnosed failed to produce the desired results. It was eventually decided Howard would exercise her right to redshirt, though she continued to travel with her teammates and coaches for road games.
The ensuing inability to train this past offseason at levels acceptable to Howard gradually dropped her weight as low as 136 pounds. She says she’s currently at 140.
Worse, injuries to some of Butler’s key frontline players this season have forced coach Beth Couture to utilize Howard this season at power forward and in the post rather than her natural position of small forward.
“Here I am, lighter than most of the guards on our team, trying to go against these 6-5 girls in the Big East,” Howard said, laughing. “I’m a hard worker, so I bust my butt to do whatever I can. I try to use my quickness to move around players.”
The tears of disappointment shed last season only strengthened Howard’s resolve to produce this winter for the 9-11 Bulldogs.
It’s been a process, one admittedly slower than what she would have preferred. Yet in the eyes of her coach, Howard has done everything that could possibly be asked of her.
“Haley is definitely a perfectionist. It’s 24-7 that Haley plays hard, and when a player does that you want her on the floor,” Couture said. “Last weekend against DePaul she took two charges against their best player (6-1 senior forward and Logansport native Jasmine Penny) that were huge.
“I just think Haley’s a total team player, and I’m really excited about her being with our program for two more years.”
In the meantime, Howard, who was scoreless in Tuesday’s 72-69 win against Providence, knows she’ll gain valuable and much-needed knowledge of life in the Big East as this season continues to play out.
After that, she’ll be a young lady on a mission.
“The big issue right now isn’t endurance. It’s my weight and my strength,” Howard said. “As soon as the season is over I’m going to hit it super hard. Food and weights. The main thing is weightlifting, and I am constantly drinking (protein drinks) and am always waking up early to eat breakfast.”
Food for thought, indeed.