Dwight Howard -- 'I like Carolina a lot'

<i>Inside Carolina</i>'s Clint Jackson checks in with Dwight Howard from Atlanta (Ga.) Southwest Christian. Howard is arguably the top post player in the Class of 2004.

Dwight Howard is one of the best players in the entire country in the loaded class of 2004. He's one of the most skilled big men to come along in a few years and it doesn't hurt his stock at all with the college coaches that he's a very intelligent and grounded kid as well.

The 6-foot-11 power forward is hurt, though.

After just getting back from the Kingdom of the Sun Shootout in Ocala, Florida, Howard will be resting his weary body. The elite schoolboy star led his Southwest Atlanta Christian squad to a 2-2 record in the annual Florida high school tournament, but he was unable to provide his usual impact due to an unfortunate and unusual basketball injury.

"I was really hurt," said Howard. "I didn't play much my last two games at all. I hurt my tailbone on the floor battling for a rebound."

And while Howard was on the bench with his injured tailbone, he watched his team struggle without his presence in the middle. But he did happen to glance up at the crowd a few times to see some of the usual faces taking in his games.

"I saw some coaches up there watching me," he said. "Florida was there, Tennessee and Georgia Tech, too."

It's common to hear through knowledgeable sources that Paul Hewitt's Yellow Jackets' could be the team to beat for the elite big man -- and Howard said nothing to change those thoughts.

"My list is pretty much the same as it always has been. Georgia Tech is in the lead and Duke and North Carolina are right there behind," he said. "The others are Tennessee, NC State, Florida, Georgia, Syracuse and the rest of them. There's a lot of schools in there, and I'm still pretty much open."

The "other schools" that Howard is referring to are most likely Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky and possibly Indiana based on published reports.

When specifically asked about the University of North Carolina and the manner in which they are recruiting him, Howard has a very solid impression of Matt Doherty's efforts:

"Coach Doherty has come to some of my games. I like it when they write personal letters and stuff instead of just sending stuff printed off of the internet. I like that he asks about my family and all. I like Carolina a lot."

However, the question remains whether North Carolina, NC State, Duke, Tennessee or anyone else for that matter actually have a chance to dethrone Hewitt's Jackets' atop his active school list?

"Absolutely," said Howard. "Anyone could do that. I'm pretty wide open."

When specifically asked about the opportunity to enter the NBA Draft after his senior tenure at S.W. Atlanta Christian, Howard thinks that college is the best answer and his mother supports the notion as well.

"If it's God's Will for me to go to the NBA Draft after high school, then I'll go. But I want to go to college. And my mom also wants me to get an education first, too, so that'll I'll have something to fall back on.

Good idea, Dwight. Something to fall back on. Just as long as it's not that tailbone again.

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