Picture a player who has two years of experience, above average court vision, the length to cause chaos at the top of a 2-3 zone, and a quick first step that can get you to the rim with ease.
Got it? Well, that's the kind of player the Syracuse Orange’s Frank Howard has shown he can be every now-and-then. What's holding him back is his inability to show those attributes consistently for 40 minutes.
He has all the talent in the world to be coach Jim Boeheim's starting point guard, but the turnovers and inconsistent jump shot haven't been able to keep him there for long. There isn't a veteran point guard to take his spot this time around, but disappearing in key games cannot remain a common trend for the junior point guard.
Hometown: Suitland, Md.
High School: Paul VI
Frank Howard was given the keys to the offense last winter — and those keys were snatched away quickly. Coach Boeheim was ready give Howard the point guard duties after Michael Gbinije graduated, but the inability to get it done when it mattered most led to Howard's benching, and John Gillon's promotion.
Howard started off playing like a real point guard, averaging 7.5 assists over his first four games, but the inability to be relied upon when a mid-range or three-point shot was needed led to his doom. The season was full of star-like plays, but it was overshadowed by turnovers and missed 18-footers. The then-sophomore finished the season averaging 4.5 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. Stats that are apt for a backup point guard. However, Howard is no longer the backup point guard for the Orange. This is his team, his offense to orchestrate, and his opportunity to grasp.
As previously stated above, Howard has what it takes to be a capable point guard at the collegiate level. Standing at 6'5", Howard has the size and length to observe the floor over the defenders' heads. In transition and the half court, Howard has the skills to finish at the rim with his length, but also the skills to find the open shooter or big man down low.
His pick and roll are above average, as his size allows him to get ahead of the defender being screened, leaving him open for a layup, or the screener open for a dive to the rim. The main knock on Howard's offensive game is his inability to be relied upon to hit a jump shot, but another offseason of hard work will hopefully lead to a better jump shot for the junior point guard. Howard has the potential to be a lethal defender, but he’s never stayed on the floor for consistent minutes.
Last year he recorded six games with at least three steals, and that number is expected to rise with an increase in minutes this winter. It's all there for Howard to have a big season. It's just up to him to put it all together.
Last year was a rough one for Howard, as he saw his starting spot get taken, and slowly lose even more minutes to that replacement (Gillon). He has shown the Syracuse faithful that he has what it takes to find the open teammate, get to the rim off of pick and rolls, and create transition opportunities off of steals, but can he do that on a consistent basis?
That will be the end-all-be-all question for Howard this year. I think he will finally figure out how to control the pace of play for a full game, while also coming into the season with a well improved jump shot. He won't be a 50 percent shooter from the field, and he won't be a 40 percent shooter from beyond the arc, but Howard will be the point guard the Orange need to maintain respectability this year.
Stat Prediction: 11.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.3 assets, 1.5 steals
This is it, Frank. Maintain inconsistent play and it'll give freshman guard Howard Washington a chance to take over. Seize the opportunity, and this is your Syracuse basketball team to lead.