ESPNU Ranks Howard as Nation's Seventh-Best Player
Twinsburg senior still undecided on college choice, will play AAU ball this summer
There are more than a few NCAA women's basketball coaches who have Malina Howard on their minds this summer.
Howard, Twinsburg's senior All-American, has yet to announce her college of choice. For now, she is playing AAU summer basketball with the Sports City U team and fine-tuning her already impressive game for the coming high school season.
Howard's progress has not gone unnoticed, particularly by the ESPNU Top 100 rankings compiled by Mark Lewis. Lewis is the national recuriting director for ESPN Hoop Gurlz and he ranks Howard as the nation's seventh top recuit and second in the country at her post position.
A key player for the Lady Tigers during their unbeaten season and a Division I state title last season, the 6-5 Howard averaged 21 points, nine rebounds and two blocks per game. She finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds in the state championship game as Twinsburg downed Kettering Fairmount for the school's first team state championship.
The Lady Tigers were ranked fifth in the country last year and will be a force to be reckoned with again as Howard leads a strong returning cast for the 2011-12 season.
"She's always been a presence inside but has succeeded over time in expanding both production and consistency to elevate her play among the elite in the class," said Lewis.
"Add to that a physical maturation that includes additional strength and a new, very impressive level of fitness and you've got an athlete breaking from the recent trend of athletes plateauing in their development," added Lewis.
Much of Howard's improved play last season was the result of her experience playing with the USA U18 team last summer at the 2010 FIBA Americas Championships. Howard shot over 60 percent from the floor for the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the worldwide competition.
Howard did not make the cut for this year's USA team but that squad's loss is the gain of the Sport City U team, founded by Jim Clayton.
"Even though she is one of the top recruits in the country she still comes out and wants to work on her game and get better," said Clayton from Sport City U's West Virgina headquarters. "Not a lot of kids want to do that.
"She has a great personality and a great work ethic," added Clayton. "She is not just a post player – she is working on some new moves and is getting better and better and better."
Howard and the Sport City U team will compete in premier events in Las Vegas, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., this summer. College scouts will be in attendance at each tournament and Howard will be a center of attention for many Division I schools. It is rumored that Howard is leaning toward Maryland, Rutgers and Tennessee at this time but she has yet to confirm her final choice.
Another showcase for Howard will be the 2012 Classic in the Country Jan. 14 when the Tigers will get a state final rematch against Kettering Fairmount.
"Continued growth and advancement in her game game may not be a given, but based on recent history, it would be a pretty safe bet," said ESPN's Lewis.