Richard Howell, NC State
No one can accuse Mr. Howell of being inconspicuous. Standing 6-8 and tipping the scales at 266, Howell is a load, and he plays exactly how you think he would. He plays close to the basket, shoots a lot of two pointers, and rebounds the heck out of the basketball. While I like Howell’s assertiveness (he took a quarter of the Wolfpack's shots during his minutes in conference play), it’s his rebounding that puts him atop the breakout contenders in the ACC. Against conference opponents, he grabbed 13 percent of his team’s misses. As you would expect, most offensive rebounds occur quite close to the hoop, and provide an excellent opportunity to score an easy deuce. Despite his great board work, Howell only converted 45 percent of his twos in ACC play. I expect him to improve on that in a big way.
Howell didn't just gobble up misses at the offensive end--he was very good defensively as well. As I pointed out back in March, he might be the best pure rebounder we've had in at least a decade. Here's a guy who was a high-usage player, grabbed misses left and right, and probably underachieved a bit in terms of FG%. No question, that makes him a great candidate for skyrocketing per-game numbers. All it takes is more playing time and voilà! Breakout.
The other factor in his favor, aside from the obvious, which is that he's had a full off-season at the college level to get better, is his health. An injury at the start of 2009 cost him a lot of development time. This year he'll be ready to move forward from the start. (Knock on wood.)
However, judging by Sidney Lowe's comments during a press conference held earlier this afternoon, we may have a Richard Howell Problem. When Tracy Smith submitted his name for draft consideration, Lowe said scouts told him Smith has a future at the four in the NBA. And so Lowe intends to use the Macrowave primarily at the four, said he "owe[s] it to [the Macrowave] for what he's done for us here to put him in that position." Which is fine. It doesn't matter where Tracy plays, just how his place affects the rest of the lineup. Lowe said he's planning on starting Jordan Vandenberg or DeShawn Painter at the five. Hence the Problem.
Most likely, Howell plays himself into the lineup. Hard not to be a little concerned by the comments, though. I think Howell is a critical piece, and it'd be a shame to have him wasting away behind Tracy.
Lowe on those three guys:
Can you talk about Deshawn [Painter] and Jordan [Vandenberg] being potential starters after not getting many minutes last season. Where is Richard Howell now compared to the end of the year and how do you see him contributing to this year's team?
They better be ready. I've talked to both of them and told them it's a great opportunity for the both of them. Not a lot of pressure on them. Hopefully we'll have enough guys out on the floor with them to help them along and score but we need them to rebound and defend. Deshawn can score but it's going to be a great opportunity. Deshawn is fired up. He's bigger, stronger.
He can be as good as he wants to be. By that I mean how much time he puts in, the work he puts in. We saw at times what he's capable of doing but the summer has been very important for him. Getting in the gym and lifting and losing some weight. We wanted him to lose a few pounds and he's looking good right now. He's an excellent passer and we're expecting him to be ready for us.
Can you talk about Deshawn [Painter] and Jordan [Vandenberg] being potential starters after not getting many minutes last season.
Where is Richard Howell now compared to the end of the year and how do you see him contributing to this year's team?
Rebound and defend, you say? C'mon, coach, I'm begging you not to be as slow in recognizing Howell's merits as you were in recognizing Tracy's.