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Howard hopes NBA teams value intangibles

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

June 7, 2011

Considering this time of year is all about measurables -- who's taller, who's stronger, who's quicker, who jumps the highest -- it's understandable that a guy like Matt Howard, whose biggest strengths lie in the intangibles, might have a hard time finding a place on the NBA pre-draft radar.

Going strictly by the measurables, the 6-8, 230-pound Butler power forward lacks prototypical height, bulk and athleticism for an NBA big man, but the more teams see of Howard, the more they tend to like.

He won't rise above the crowd for a thunderdunk, break anybody's ankles with a crossover or rain threes from all over the court.

But he will dive to the floor in pursuit of an errant entry pass and deftly scoop the ball back into the hands of a teammate for the game-winning shot, as he did in one of the workout scrimmages.

"Some things are going to go your way and hopefully some teams do look for that and appreciate those types of things," Howard said. "I think draft success is not measured on drafting guys with intangibles. It's measured on what type of impact player you can get right away. That maybe is a little bit of a challenge but that's just the nature of it and I can't worry about it."

In making consecutive appearances with Butler in the NCAA title game, Howard was the other guy both times. In 2010, Gordon Hayward was the apple of the NBA's eye and wound up a lottery pick. This year, the hotter prospect is guard Shelvin Mack, who could be a first-round pick.

Howard's prospects improved when he shifted from center to power forward and extended his shooting range last season, hitting .398 from the 3-point line while averaging 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds. When you're an undersized big man, being able to stretch the defense can be a major plus.

"A lot of teams have said, 'Why or when did you start shooting the ball?' I think that has made a really big difference," he said. "I'm looked at as a reasonable prospect because of that."

He has adopted a new look with his locks, as well, shearing the long curls and going with a much more close-cropped style. But that decision was strictly pragmatic and had nothing to do with molding his image.

"It was more that it felt like it was about 110 (degrees) in Minnesota in a workout earlier and I was completely drenched and it was way too hot," he said with a smile. "I figured I might as well try to help myself out a little bit. There were about 80 guys in the gym. I think that was the problem."

A three-time academic All-America and the national Academic All-America of the Year in 2011, Howard clearly is a guy that can do other things besides bruise his knees and elbows in pursuit of a basketball career.

Make no mistake, though: this is exactly what he wants to do. He fully intends to be playing professionally this Fall, even if things don’t work out in the NBA.

"One-hundred percent, I want to play," he said. "It's going to be an interesting situation with the (possible NBA) lockout. I might have a decision to make based on if I'm drafted (or) if I'm not, do I want to take the chance staying over here?

"If they're having a long lockout, maybe you end up getting cut in the middle of the year and you can't go overseas. It's a tough year to be in this situation but I've just got to make the best of it and hopefully make the right decision."

Howard and Wisconsin's Jon Leuer were the only big men in the six-player group Tuesday. Purdue's E'Twaun Moore and former Brebeuf standout Andrew Warren (Bradley) battled premier shooting guard prospects Klay Thompson (Washington State) and Marshon Brooks (Providence), as well as each other.

Moore said he wants to show "that I play hard and that I play defense first. That's something any team can use and that's the first impression I want to leave."

Generally projected as a mid-second round prospect. Moore needs to show scouts the ability to play both guard spots.

"I'm going to be a combo-type guy that can guard point guards and shooting guards," he said, "so make sure I've got my ballhandling skills up and be able to knock down the open shots."