Selling Haley Howard on the positives of the northwestern corner of Tennessee wasn’t difficult.
On May 21, the former Whiteland Community High School girls basketball player signed to play at the University of Tennessee at Martin after spending her first three years at Butler University.
The Daily Journal’s Player of the Year in 2011, the 6-foot forward first visited the UT Martin campus the second weekend of this month, made an oral commitment on May 19 and signed two days later.
“The campus is small like Butler’s, and it’s beautiful,” said Howard, who started 26 of the 30 games she played in 2013-2014, averaging 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds.
“It’s a small town, and that’s very appealing to me. I loved the coaching staff when I visited, and women’s basketball is big there. They average about 1,500 fans for every home game.”
According to NCAA transfer rules, Howard will have to sit out the 2014-2015 women’s basketball season. However, due to the nature of her transfer — the mass exodus that eventually got former Butler coach Beth Couture fired — Howard has petitioned the NCAA in an attempt to have two seasons of athletic eligibility remaining.
She’ll be joined at UT Martin by former Butler teammate Ashton Feldhaus, a 6-2 guard/forward who averaged 2.2 points for the Bulldogs as a freshman.
The Skyhawks are a Division I program coached by Kevin McMillan, who in April signed a new six-year contract after leading UT Martin to the NCAA Tournament for a fourth consecutive season.
McMillan has assembled a 98-62 record in his five seasons, a drastic departure from the woeful 2-27 record the Skyhawks mustered the season prior to his arrival in 2009.
Howard committed to attend Butler as a high school sophomore. She would average 7.7 points as a freshman before having to exhaust a redshirt season in 2012-2013 to properly heal a stress fracture in her left femur.
This past winter Howard helped lead Butler to a 15-15 regular-season record. The Bulldogs lost at South Dakota State, 78-61, in the first round of the Women’s NIT Tournament. Howard announced her desire to transfer shortly thereafter.
“I was looking at a school in Phoenix, but it was too far away for me,” Howard said. “There were Indiana schools interested, but I ruled them out because I want to leave Indiana.”
And so she will. On June 9, Howard leaves for UT Martin to help run the various summer basketball camps for girls.
First steps to a new adventure.