There's a buzz in IU basketball circles about Connersville's Matt Howard.
The 6-7, 215-pound forward is one of the state's top players in the Class of 2007, possessing an all-around game that helped lead the Spiece Central Stars to the Adidas May Classic 17-and-under title last weekend in Bloomington. The shaggy-haired Hoosier native can play inside or out, can impose his will on both ends of the floor, and college coaches have taken notice of the rising senior who averaged 19.1 points and 10.6 points as a high school junior.
During the recent evaluation period for '07 players, Connersville H.S. was a popular destination for college coaches from around the Midwest.
"We've had a huge interest in Matt Howard," said Connersville H.S. Coach Rodney Klein. " A lot of big-time Division I schools, a lot of mid-majors have been in and out of here, and Matt has impressed everyone.
"He's impressed everyone because he works so hard. To use a term that others use, his motor is always running."
IU Coach Kelvin Sampson's wheels, meanwhile, have quickly started turning. On the IU job less than two months, Sampson has already doled out a handful of scholarship offers to Class of '07 players. One of those is coming for Howard as well.
"I've talked to Coach Sampson on the phone, and they've been actively recruiting Matt since Coach Sampson has arrived, and we are very happy they are," Klein said.
Howard joins a growing list of in-state 2007 players Sampson has targeted. IU has also been showing plenty of interest in Valparaiso's pair of Robbie Hummel and Scott Martin, along with East Chicago's E'twaun Moore and Franklin Central's JuJuan Johnson.
While the recruiting competition for all five figures to be fierce, Sampson has made it obvious he wants to add a local flavor to the Hoosiers' roster.
Howard, meanwhile, has indicated that he has a preference to stay close to home. Indiana, Purdue, Xavier and West Virginia are among those he has received word are ready to offer a scholarship.
"I'm hoping to know (where I'm going in) late July, sometime late in the summer," Howard said. "I'm getting to where I'm trying to narrow it down…I know I am going to be more concentrated on staying closer to home if possible."
Whomever lands Howard will be getting a player who's already extremely productive on both ends of the floor with the potential to blossom at the next level.
"Matt is an outstanding young man," Klein said. "He's as hard a worker and plays as hard as anyone I've coached and seen. He has the ability to play great defense, block shots, get to the rack, and he runs the floor well. He has the total package and continues to get better every day."
That progress has been aided by an off-season routine that includes 6:30 a.m. trips to the high school gym for individual workouts.
"He's just gotten so much more confident in himself," Klein said. "His footwork is so much better, his ability to take the ball on the dribble is better, he shoots the outside shot, his ability to improve on a daily basis is amazing. He's taken himself from a 16-foot shooter to a considerable 3-point shooter."
He's also elevated himself from being a very good in-state player to an elite level around the Midwest, a top-100 caliber standout that figures to see his stock continue to rise throughout the summer AAU season.
Klein, meanwhile, fully expects Howard to live up to those rankings wherever he winds up for his college basketball career.
"I have the utmost confidence that wherever he decides to go tot schoo he will be an impact player for whoever gets him," Klein said.
Connersville's Howard on the Rise
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