Feb. 18, 2003
Whether alerting teammates of a cutter moving through the lane or barking out help is on the weak side, Jim Howell is easily the most vocal Santa Clara Bronco defender.
In team defense, communication is essential and the junior captain is the mouthpiece of this young basketball team. However, being a leader involves more than just being vocal; Howell is backing it up with his play. The inspiration comes from a small fishing town of Newport, Ore.
Following the passing of his father when he was five-years-old, Howell was moved by his mother from San Bernardino, Calif. to the Northwest to begin a new life. A couple of uncles were in the fishing industry and Howell moved with is mother, grandmother and brother. The slower lifestyle of Newport is conducive to raising a family but Howell believes he'll be somewhere else after graduation.
"I want to keep playing as long as I can until they tell me they don't want me anymore", says the third-leading rebounder in the West Coast Conference. "Then I'll probably be doing something in the financial world."
While he may be toiling in another country, his heart will still be near Judith Warren, who has been Howell's biggest fan. Her victory over Hepatitis C has lit a fire in the adjacent state to the south.
"She's my inspiration, basically. I know she's proud of me for being here, so anything else I do basketball-wise is just icing on the cake."
Howell was the player of the game in Sunday's win over Pepperdine with a career-high 19 points and eight rebounds following a 14 and 10 effort against Loyola Marymount on Thursday. Coach Dick Davey compares his tenacity on the glass to Kurt Rambis, saying the more you get after it, the greater the chance of getting the boards.
In SCU's first meeting against LMU earlier this season, Howell hauled-in 19 boards, the most for a Santa Clara player since Ron Reis a decade ago. The numbers are fine, but Howell says the personal success is only rewarding if the team is doing well.
"I'd trade any honors I get to win the league and go to the (NCAA) tournament," says Howell. "We've been close before and it would mean everything to make it there."
The team first attitude expressed by Howell is something that hasn't gone unnoticed by Coach Davey.
"It's never about him; it's about the team. We're all part of the losses, but he takes it as a personal responsibility as a captain. He's a leader through his actions. He's done an awful lot for our program. We didn't expect as much as we have gotten from him."
They've received nine points and seven rebounds a game from a guy who was considered a project and a journeyman coming into the program. There was talk of Howell redshirting as a freshman, but he was thrown into the fray and started eight games, pulling down a then career-high 12 rebounds against Fresno State in the first game at the Leavey Center.
"Jim has a few shortcomings in terms of his athletic ability," adds Davey. "But, he never misses a day of practice and is out there to the point where you don't want him around as much. He's overcome some health problems to play a lot minutes for us and we'd like him to lighten up a little in practice. But, that's just not him."
Two other coaches have left a big impression on Howell. One is his high school coach, Mike McAfee, who is given a lot of credit as a male role model along with the guy who sent recruiting letters and videos to prospective schools. The other is former Bronco mentor Carroll Williams, who sat Howell down at the beginning of the year.
"I approached him and I knew he wanted to talk to me about some things. Basically he laid down some of the groundwork in terms of being a leader. He said I had all the qualities it took to be a leader, but the bottom line was, I had to play better. Everyone has so much respect for Carroll that his advice certainly meant a lot"
While Howell engages in low post wrestling matches with Cory Violette of Gonzaga and Jason Keep of USD, Judith Warren now struggles with Lupus. If she receives a small portion of the inspiration from Jim as he has received from her, then everything will work out. A living example is patrolling the middle for the Broncos, proving belief and hard work can make all the difference.