The summer between freshman and sophomore year for most high school students might entail trying to pin down a part-time job for the upcoming school year or studying for a driver’s permit test.
Markus Howard’s was a bit different.
Coming off of an impressive freshman campaign, where he averaged 23 points per game, Howard, and Corona del Sol’s Marvin Bagley III, trained with Team USA at their junior minicamp in Colorado Springs, CO.
“Being at the camp in Colorado Springs, it’s so much more than yourself. (When you) wear that ‘USA’ across your chest, you’re not only representing yourself and your family. You’re representing your whole country,” Howard said. “It’s a big responsibility.”
Howard knows something about dealing with responsibility on the basketball court. Howard burst onto the scene as one of Perry’s top players as a freshman and quickly joined the conversation as one of the top players in the state. His productive summer also included a college commitment, as he caught the attention of Arizona State University head basketball coach Herb Sendek.
After two meetings with the Arizona State staff, Howard gave his verbal commitment to play for the Sun Devils. With his college decision made, Howard has set his focus on improving his game and developing his leadership skills for the next level.
“(I’m) having to play with a chip on my shoulder. Arizona State is a great school, great facilities, great team, great coaching staff,” Howard said. “(I’m trying) to be a huge extension of the coach, not only by example but vocally and getting my guys to play hard each and every game. Just knowing that I’m going to be in that position in college makes me want to work even harder at it.”
The work is paying off. Howard averages 31 points per game for the 17-3 Pumas. While the scoring numbers are staggering, Perry head basketball coach Joe Babinski says you need to focus on more than Howard’s scoring numbers to get a full appreciation for his accomplishments.
“People always say, ‘Markus is a scorer’. Markus is a basketball player. That’s how I look at him, and that’s what he’s grown into…He’s got a lot of things he can do on the floor,” Babinsi said.
While the hot start for Howard and his team has been a high for Perry, it hasn’t been completely rainbows and butterflies for the sophomore star.
Howard has missed time twice this year due to injuries, which includes a gash above his eye that required 12 stitches. He also suffered a concussion after he ran into the bleachers trying to save a loose ball in the Tempe McClintock Holiday Shootout Final in late December.
Though Howard has had some bad luck when it comes to injuries, that won’t necessarily make him pump the brakes. Howard can be found on the floor fighting for a loose ball almost as frequently as he is slashing to the bucket or hitting a shot from beyond the arc.
“Nothing’s going to keep me from hustling like I usually do,” Howard said, sporting a scar above his left eye. “(I’m) just being more cautious, and appreciating the game so much more.
Howard and Perry continue their playoff push Friday night against Red Mountain.