Patience is a virtue. That’s what they say. And for some people, they’d rather not face that test. For others, it’s inevitably something we must all face at some point and learn the hard way. That’s what Lumpkin County alum Jack Howard had to face, and he did so with great perseverance and determination at the University of North Georga.
Howard is a redshirt-sophomore guard for the Nighthawks, and for the past two seasons he had played a grand total of eight minutes spread across 12 games, scoring just two points. Instead of doing what many choose to do, and leave or quit altogether, Howard exemplified hard work and its dividends.
“I’m all about the team and winning,” says Howard. “But personally, it’s nice to step back and realize that I’m blessed to be playing college basketball. There were times in my first two years here that I had doubts if I was ever going to play. So being able to actually see the floor and contribute after two years of working hard it feels great.”
Perhaps some insight is needed on just how well he’s contributing in the 2018-19 season. Howard is averaging 7.5 points per contest in 14.4 minutes per game. That’s a rate of nearly 20 points per game for every full game played. In that span, he’s also shooting 44% from the field, and an even better 47% from beyond the arc. He has added 1.2 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game, with 10 total steals.
“Just the speed and the physicality of the game,” says Howard on the difference between the high school and college game. “Being a guard in the Peach Belt [Conference] is tough. There are no off nights; everyone in this league can play, so getting physically and mentally ready to play at a high level was the most challenging transition from high school to college.”
Howard, a former Lumpkin County product who tore up opposition from 2012-13 until 2015-16. He left the Indians with 1,000-plus career points, and helping lead the program to three straight state playoff trips, including a Sweet 16 run in his senior season that closed with 19 wins. One of his former Lumpkin teammates, Zach Pulley (class of 2017), also plays at UNG. He is one of a few current teammates previously tied to Howard.
“It’s been great to team up and play with friends like Pulley and Zez [Steeple],” says Howard. “It makes practices and games more enjoyable. I played AAU with both of them since I was in middle school, so there is a sort of chemistry there that I’m sure a lot of other teams in the Peach Belt don’t have.”
Of Howard’s top performances this season, he has scored in double figures seven times, including in three straight games in which he averaged 14.3 points per game. He also notched a collegiate career-high 23 points against Young Harris, nailing six 3-pointers. There are surely many more games like that to come for Howard, as he has proven that patience, hard work, and determination equals success.
“Just grind it out,” Howard says to those who are thinking about giving up. “There were days, even weeks where I was essentially depressed about being the only one not getting any playing time. The best advice I could give someone would be just keep putting in work and don’t get down on yourself. It took me two years to develop into a player mentally and physically that could play and contribute on this team.”
He will continue to do so.
Feature Photo by Crump Photo