What might have been a game at Wright State now is a trip to Philadelphia. No more Detroit, just a lot more Dayton.
Butler University’s move to the Atlantic 10 Conference has and will continue to assure a surplus of new venues for its athletics programs to experience, a fact not lost on sophomore women’s basketball player Haley Howard.
Having never set foot on California soil, the Whiteland Community High School product is excited about the Bulldogs’ holiday tournament next month in San Francisco. On Feb. 20, the St. Louis Arch serves as an imposingly silent backdrop for Howard, herself something of an authority after rainbow-ing in 23 3-pointers during the 2011-12 season.
With these and other unfamiliar gymnasiums comes a new position for Howard. After averaging 7.7 points and 2.9 rebounds a game as a Butler freshman from the “4” (power forward) spot, the 6-footer who found herself a starter in 13 of the team’s 30 games has been moved to the “3” (small forward).
The Howard File
Name: Haley Howard
High school: Whiteland
Jersey number: 3
Points per game: 7.7
Rebounds per game: 2.9
Career highs: Minutes, 35 against Indiana State on Dec. 6; points, 23 vs. Detroit on March 1; 3-pointers, 4 against Nevada on Nov. 25; free throws, 6 for 6 against Detroit
“I’m definitely more of a guard. I loved playing the ‘4’ last year, but with all the guards we lost and the posts we brought in, I think that had something to do with it, too,” said Howard, the Daily Journal’s 2011 Player of the Year. “Coach (Beth) Couture has always told me she recruited me more as a 2 or 3 guard.
“At the beginning, I did not want to play guard because I had played with my back to the basket for three or four years.”
This includes her time as a front-line regular in high school while helping Whiteland win 29 of its 43 games her final two seasons. Her freshmen season at Butler couldn’t have started better. She averaged a team-high 10.9 points through the Bulldogs’ first 15 games.
By mid-January, however, her job description had changed.
Howard was coming off the bench, a reality that gradually lowered her numbers in virtually every statistical category. It wasn’t a demotion, but her coach’s way of bringing a proven point producer off the bench when the situation called for it.
Howard is fine either way. If Butler is having success, who is she to argue?
Butler returns six of its top nine scorers from the 2011-12 squad, which would seem to point to greater success than last season’s 13-17 record, the program’s first sub-.500 campaign since 2003-04.
Whether this translates into more wins in the demanding Atlantic 10 Conference remains to be seen. After all, this is a league, led by defending conference tournament champion Dayton, that last season saw six programs post 20 or more victories.
A year ago at this time, Howard was settling into new surroundings at Butler. Now it’s a new and tougher conference and a dissimilar role within the confines of the program. Couture, who has been impressed with the off-season strength work put in by Howard since March, isn’t at all concerned with how the sophomore will fare.
“As we looked at Haley’s strengths and weaknesses, we felt the 3 was the best position for her. You can just see how comfortable she is out there,” Couture said. “Now that she’s played the 3, it’s beginning to grow on her.
“I think that’s her natural position.”
The Bulldogs will host Kentucky Wesleyan in an exhibition game Nov. 2 at Hinkle Fieldhouse before opening the 2012-13 season Nov. 10 at Marquette. Butler’s home-opener will be Nov. 17 against Fairfield.