Over the next several weeks, we'll be reviewing the season that was for Maryland basketball. Included in this review is, of course, player recaps, looking back at what they did and ahead at what the future holds. Today, we look at Maryland's oft-injured point guard: Pe'Shon Howard.
|2011 - Pe'Shon Howard||14||32.9||2.2||6.0||36.9||0.7||2.6||27.0||1.4||2.1||65.5||0.1||3.6||3.7||3.7||3.2||0.9||0.1||1.8||6.5|
How we got here: After an impressive freshman season where he played in every game and hit a buzzer beater against the College of Charleston, Pe'Shon Howard entered his sophomore campaign with high expectations. Mark Turgeon was inheriting a young Maryland team with a promising scorer in Terrell Stoglin, but Howard was the only true point on the roster. If the Terps were to have any kind of success, he would have to stay healthy and consistent. Unfortunately for Maryland, neither of those things happened.
First, it was announced in late October that the young guard had broken his foot and would be out 10-12 weeks. Many expected Stoglin, the team's primary ball handler, to take over point guard duties, but Mark Turgeon surprised us all and tabbed true freshman Nick Faust for the spot, as Ben B. covered earlier. Faust did fine in his stead, but the team needed their point guard back. Howard was expected to return Jan. 8 for the conference opener at N.C. State, but made great strides in his recovery and returned Jan. 23 against Radford.
In that game, he played 32 minutes, with seven points, three assists, and three turnovers. For the next 13 games, the Terps had their point guard back, for better or for worse. Howard definitely helped in eating up minute (only two games under 30) and he had his moments - 15 points against Temple, eight assists at North Carolina State and at Miami - but he also had his issues. In his second game back, against Albany, MVPe' had six turnovers. That was one of five games where he turned the ball over at least four times, and he had a assist-to-turnover ratio below one in more than a third of his games.
In his last game of the season, Howard had three points with three turnovers and two assists in a two-point win at Clemson. A few days later, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, undergoing surgery and missing the rest of the year.
So what did we learn from Howard's shortened season? Not much. A broken foot is an injury that doesn't go away very quickly, and it showed - in nearly twice the amount of minutes per game, his per game stat averages were nearly identical to those of his freshman year. At times MVPe' showed increased maturity on the court, but that has never been a problem for him in his Maryland career.
A lot of the time, it just looked like he was a step slower than he was last year, and it's safe to say we can say (and hope) that was due to the injury, and was temporary. As a result, Howard really looked like he was forcing himself on the court, and it showed in the stat book. While his assists per game increased from 3.2 to 3.7 per game, his turnovers nearly doubled, going from 1.7 to 3.2 per game (remember, that's in nearly double the minutes).
MVPe' also forced a lot of shots, causing his field goal percentage to drop around six points (42.3% to 36.9%) and his three point percentage to drop nearly nine points (35.9% to 27.0%). Howard was also unable to fix his free throw shooting, which dropped from 68% to 65.5%, but as he only got to the line for two shots per game (a separate issue), that wasn't really an active problem.
Where he did improve was in some of the other aspects of the game, especially rebounding. Sean Mosley's departure from Maryland is going to have a big effect on this team, in large part because of his basketball IQ and hustle. Howard showed flashes of those traits last year - putting himself in position for rebounds, playing great defense, and generally playing harder than most of the guys on the court. A (generously-listed) 6'3" point guard averaging nearly four rebounds per game in the ACC is quite a feat, and that didn't come because MVPe' has incredible leaping ability or long arms. Like Mosley, he positions himself in the right place at the right time and the ball comes to him.
The Road Ahead: With Seth Allen coming in and (hopefully) Sam Cassell Jr. too, Howard's got some depth behind him this time around. He enters his junior season with a year and a half of playing time under his belt, but with a team that's steadily growing with him. Like Maryland, Pe'Shon Howard did not have the best year last season statistically. But also like Maryland, Howard's flaws came from an outside source (injury/lack of depth) and there was noticeable improvement in certain areas from last year's product.
It is possible that Howard fully recovers from the injuries that plagued him last year and shows up next season as one of the best true point guards in the ACC with the heart and intelligence of the recently-graduated Mosley. It's also possible that MVPe' never fully recovers from his injury, continues to have less-than-impressive years and plays half seasons for the rest of his Maryland career.
If he's healthy, Howard will enter next season as the unquestioned point guard for Maryland. With scorers, defenders, and a trio of young post men around him, he could conceivably be leading a tournament team next March. At the same time, it's hard to imagine a single player on Maryland's roster more important to their success than MVPe', simply because there's no one else on the team that Terp fans can be confident will do the job well.
Really, the question for Howard remains the same as it was before this past season: can he stay healthy and consistent? If he does, Maryland could be looking back on a pretty successful season a year from now.