Last night, Syracuse commit Frank Howard‘s Paul VI squad took on a loaded Oak Hill team, with the game broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network. I wasn’t able to catch the game live, but watched the replay this morning to get a feel for Frank’s game. It wasn’t a strong performance for Paul VI, as they were clearly over matched, and Howard didn’t finish with a great stat line. However, it’s easy to see some of the potential Syracuse sees in the future Orange point guard.
The first thing that jumps out about Frank Howard is his size, as he’s a legitimate 6-foot-6 and has a frame that, along with the way he moves, will remind a lot of people of Michael Carter-Williams. Because we all love comparing future players to familiar Orange ones, the best way I could come up with to describe Frank Howard, based on highlight reels and watching last night’s game, is that he’s somewhere between MCW and Michael Gbinije.
That said, there’s clearly some room for improvement from Frank, who struggled to a 2-of-14 shooting performance, including just 1-of-6 from three, and he hit only 2-of-5 free throws. The good news on the free throws is that he’s got a solid, fluid stroke, but he’s just not knocking them down. Based on the smoothness of his release, though, it looks like repetition is about the only thing standing between Howard and becoming a reliable free throw shooter.
One of the things Syracuse fans will no doubt be wondering is whether he’s more of a point guard, or a shooting guard. Obviously his size would indicate shooting guard, while all signs point to him having been recruited to run the point for the Orange. Last night, Frank spent time both running the point and playing off the ball, and he looked equally comfortable in both roles.
Now, it’s tough to say that someone “looked comfortable” at the point when he turned the ball over six times against just four assists, but sometimes you have to look beyond the numbers. You have to take into account the fact that his Paul VI team was simply no match for Oak Hill (at one point in the first half, Oak Hill had 17 points off of turnovers, while Frank’s team had just 15 points overall…that’s the kind of game it was. Paul VI is a solid team, but Oak Hill is absolutely loaded). You also have to consider that Frank is still getting back into the flow after missing all of last year with a torn ACL, and he’s also still transitioning to the point guard spot.
Those things considered, he looks a heck of a lot more comfortable running the point than, for instance, Michael Gbinije. There were signs of his passing ability throughout the game, beginning with the first bucket of the game for Paul VI. On that play, he made a confident, pinpoint post entry pass that led to an easy bucket for a teammate. One of the lost arts in basketball these days is the ability to feed the post, and Howard showed some real skill in entering the ball with a crisp bounce pass around a defender on this play.
I mentioned that Howard will immediately draw comparisons to Michael Carter-Williams because of their similar builds, but should point out that, from a strength standpoint, Howard is already more advanced than MCW at the same stage. His lankiness and the way he handles the ball is also going to make people think of Carter-Williams, though MCW was the more gifted passer and probably saw the floor a bit better at the same stage of their development.
Howard is a solid athlete, and has a nice ability to get where he wants on the court with his long strides and mostly confident handle. Of course last night, when he was able to get into the lane he had a tough time getting his shots off and finishing against the athletic Oak Hill front line, getting his shot altered or flat out swatted on numerous occasions after making a nice, quick move to get to the bucket.
His jump shot form isn’t bad, though there are a couple little kinks that stood out. He has a tendency to kick his feet forward, particularly his right foot – not unlike Kobe Bryant, actually. On several of his jumpers, it also almost looked as though his follow through wasn’t quite complete. What I mean by that is that he often wouldn’t fully extend his shooting arm, leaving his elbow slightly bent at the point of release. Those are two things that can be easily corrected and, to be honest with you, I’ve always been of the mind that repetition is more important than how pretty a jumper looks. Just ask Kevin Martin.
At the end of the night, Howard finished with seven points, seven boards, and four assists to go along with his rough shooting night and six giveaways. He also added a steal in his 23 minutes on the court. Obviously you can’t come to any real conclusions following a single game against a powerhouse opponent, and while Howard’s line wasn’t impressive, his size, athleticism, and quickness certainly are.
Right now, he looks like he may wind up following a similar career path as MCW, not just because they’re so similar in build and movement. Look for Howard to play a limited role as a freshman before becoming a big part of the rotation as a sophomore. This kid has a lot of potential, and it’ll be fun to watch him unleash it at Syracuse.