Bloomington, Ind. – Signing day for the Class of 2010 is still two years away, but the IU coaching staff has already identified their No. 1 backcourt priority.
The 6'2", 180-pound guard from Lakewood, Ohio, was in Bloomington two weeks ago to take in Hoosier Hysteria, marking the second straight year he's been seated courtside for the season's opening practice. Indiana made it clear just how much they coveted him by offering him a scholarship last summer before the start of his freshman season, and they've since reiterated it.
"They say I'm the main guard that they want for the 2010 class," Howard said.
Of course, other programs want Howard as well. Soon after IU offered a scholarship, Ohio State Coach Thad Matta jumped in with a Buckeye offer, and Howard said he's since added offers from both Cal and Wisconsin.
With three more years of high school basketball ahead of him, that could be just the tip of the recruiting iceberg for Howard. But no matter what unfolds, he says Indiana has made a lasting impression with its early interest and the intensity of their pursuit.
"I'd probably say (Indiana) is recruiting me harder than everybody else," Howard said. "I know my dad really likes them, really likes the coaching staff."
But Howard also knows he has plenty of time to make a decision, and he's decided to take more of a wait-and-see approach than he was a year ago.
"I'm probably not getting into it as seriously as I was my freshman year," Howard said. "Then it was really exciting because it was new. Now, I'm listening to what the coaches have to say. But my main focus is on my high school season, and then I'll probably take (recruiting) more seriously next year.
"I'm sure I'll take some time over the summer and weight my options. But I know Indiana will definitely be in the mix."
With recruiting on hold, Howard's attention is now squarely on his sophomore season. After a standout freshman campaign at Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward's H.S., Howard has since departed and enrolled at prep school powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. He said everything with Oak Hill came together a couple of weeks ago, and his plans are to spend the next three seasons at the Mouth of Wilson, Va., school to better prepare himself for college.
"It's been great – it's really small and kind of in the middle of no where, but it's really good basketball," Howard said. "Every player here, you can see the improvement in their game. It's because when you get here you've got nothing to focus on but basketball and school, and the coaches are great and make sure you're on your job."
Howard is joined by a slew of other Division I-caliber prospects on Coach Steve Smith's team. In the senior class there's Arizona-bound point guard Brandon Jennings (Scout.com's top-ranked point guard in the '08 class), USC-bound shooting guard Malik Story and top-25 center Dan Jennings. The juniors on the team, meanwhile, include 6-8, 295-pound center Keith Gallon (No. 5 center in '09 class) and small forward Glen Bryant.
Oak Hill has become the most recognized prep school in the nation, and Howard admits he has been intrigued by the possibility of going there for some time. He was given that opportunity, and now he thinks it will help his game immensely.
"I get to go against Brandon Jennings everyday in practice," Howard said. "Guarding someone like that, that's one of the best experiences you can have. Playing with these guys is almost like playing with a college team. With me being a sophomore that gives me an earlier start."
The IU coaching staff was on hand for one of Howard's first performances with his new team. Earlier this week Oak Hill Academy played a scrimmage against Hargrave Military Academy, another elite prep school that produced current IU sophomore Armon Bassett. Howard said IU Assistant Ray McCallum was in attendance, providing further evidence of the Hoosiers' desire to lure him to Bloomington in a couple of years.
"(Indiana's coaches) want me to play either shooting guard or point guard there," Howard said. "They like how I see the floor and handle the game."
Howard Tops IU's 2010 Wish List
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