Normally when a player finishes a game missing his only field goal attempt and recording only a single point he doesn't draw rave reviews. And yet, following Syracuse's 60-57 win over Georgia Tech Saturday, that was exactly the case for Syracuse backup point guard Frank Howard.
Howard, who's in the midst of his freshman season at Syracuse, played admirably for the Orange, recording six assists, three rebounds, and one block in 14 meaningful minutes of play. The six assists were a season high for Howard, who looked extremely confident and comfortable with the ball in his hands – evident by his zero turnovers.
Syracuse men's basketball head coach Jim Boeheim praised Howard during his postgame press conference following the Orange's win.
"Frank Howard made some of the best passes we've seen in years here. When he stops shooting 10-foot floaters, he'll stay in the game," Boeheim said. "I thought he was tremendous in the first half. He made some great passes, that's why we recruited him. He's a tremendous passer. He had six assists in 14 minutes. That's like getting 12 points. He was tremendous out there."
The four star recruit from Pal VI High School in Suitland, Maryland was originally expected to be Syracuse's third-string point guard behind starter Michael Gbinije and last year's starter Kaleb Joseph. Joseph, however, has failed to make the jump in his second year with the Orange that many had hoped he would and has fallen out of Jim Boeheim's rotation entirely in recent weeks.
After averaging 27.3 minutes per game last year, Joseph has averaged just 6.3 minutes this season – including failing to even record a single minute of playing time in five of the Orange's last 10 games. Howard, however, has been trending upwards, having received double-digit minutes three times in Syracuse's past six games.
While Howard won't be mistaken for the likes of Michael Carter-Williams or Tyler Ennis, he's a productive pass-first point guard with exceptional court vision who rarely turns the ball over. In addition, Howard's 6-foot-5 and 185-pound frame makes him a solid defender at the top of Syracuse's 2-3 zone.
With Joseph looking like an almost sure thing to transfer out of the program at the end of the season, and Gbinije set to graduate and most-likely head to the NBA, Howard will almost-certainly move into the starting role next season.
The question Syracuse fans are left wondering is, can he succeed in such a role? Will he thrive like Carter-Williams and Ennis, or crumble under the pressure like Joseph?
Only time will tell.