Howard’s Coach: Walk-On came a long way

When Eric Rauch took over the Westfield High School basketball program last year, he didn’t think he had a college athlete on his hands in Jeff Howard. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound center had received virtually zero recruiting attention heading into his senior year, even though he had made the rounds of the summer AAU circuit.

But after a year of vast improvements, Howard will not only be playing college basketball, but playing at his dream school. Rauch confirmed an Indianapolis Star report that Howard had agreed to play at Indiana as a preferred walk-on.

“He is just starting to get the scope of what he can be,” Rauch said. “If you told me when he first came in that he would be playing college ball much less at Indiana, I would’ve been a little surprised, but he’s really worked and responded to the opportunities given to him.”

Howard averaged 16.8 points, 12.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists as a senior, earning Indianapolis Star North Player of the Year honors. That surprised even coaches who had dealt with him the summer before his senior year, including Justin Young, his coach with Indiana Elite.

“His AAU coach is an assistant coach at Mt. Vernon,” Rauch said. “We played them and he said, ‘What did you do to him? I would’ve never dreamed he’d be where he is.’ It wasnt’ a secret that he got a lot better even between summer ball and the start of basketball season.”

Rauch said Howard would likely project as a power forward at the next level. His biggest offensive skill is the ability to pass the ball out of the post, Rauch said. He has a strong back to the basket game and is working on his perimeter jumper, but he’s a betterĀ  defensive player than an offensive player. Despite his size, Rauch said, Howard has the lateral quickness to defend guards, and he actually defend Hamilton Southeastern star Gary Harris among others.

“Defensively, he played extremely intelligent,” Rauch said. “Not only could he guard a guard, he had an extremely good court sense. He didn’t try to block a shot when he was on the ball, he would only do it when he was in rotation. That intelligence was the biggest thing.”

And it carries over to school as well. According to Rauch, Howard carries a 4.3 grade point average and will graduate in the top 10 of a class of over 400.

30 comments

  1. Preferred walk-on means you have a roster spot right now. “Regular” walk-ons have to try out in the fall and hope Tom Crean likes them enough to keep them. Rudy was a regular walk-on, if that helps. His buddy that was a legacy was a preferred walk-on.

  2. Preferred walk-ons are cannon fodder! No training table for meals. i believe that they have access to the tutoring program.

  3. No idea how he will do as a Big Ten basketball player but Big Ten (and other major conferences) football rosters are full of preferred walk-ons. Many of them earn scholarships and frequently work their way into the starting lineup.

  4. Woooohooooo we have 2 Pritchards now, The Dukes, Kentucky’s, Butlers, North Carolinas don’t have a chance now. LOL Just Kiddin, sounds like a steal since your not giving anything. These are the kind of breaks that turn a program around. Kind of like finding a good rabbit dog you buy several and they are no good and then someone gives you one for free and its the best u ever had.

  5. Why the negativity? He’s not on scholarship and therefore doesn’t complicate our already-precarious scholarship situation. He’s 6’8″, 225. If nothing else, he can come in and make good use of his 5 fouls so our scholarship players don’t have to. Plus he’s from Indiana; may have some upside as a player; and is an excellent student. No negatives here as I see it.

  6. This kid is a fine, improving, no cost get. Could develop into our best walk on ever.

  7. Rob Reiner, I have no clue what you are talking about. Did I ever say I was a “preferred blogger”?
    As far as Howard, I look for him to push for playing time.

  8. Give him a chance before ragging on him. On a side note, was at the Dallas airport and saw D.J. White on his way to Oklahoma city. We had a nice chat and had our picture taken together. He’s still a class act. I still hope he gets a legitimate chance in the NBA. That league needs more nice guys.

  9. D.J. White is one my all-time favorite IU players. He stuck it out through so much. The game where he had 21 points and 22 rebounds against Michigan will forever be fresh in my memory. Clark Kellogg described him as ‘Just an absolute beast.’ Awesome! And his games against Gonzaga and UCLA the year before in the tournament weren’t too shabby, either. I too hope he ends up having a long career in the NBA.

  10. This is my first blog on the scoop…I really visit this site quite a bit..JH will eventually be a solid bench player if not more. I love the bashing on 4gags. I bet his lunch money was taken every day in school!

  11. eric-

    Agree completely about DJ. That guy stuck with IU after his coach was fired, fought back from injury, and became an IU legend thick-and-thin.

  12. I don’t really consider DJ an Indiana legend. The way he handled the Sampson fiasco was inexcusable in my book.
    Steve Aford, Damon Bailey, Calbert Cheaney… These are Indiana legends. That term gets thrown out a little too loosely at times.

  13. I think any Indiana player that is big ten player of the year and a player(D.J. WHITE) that dominated the way he did can surely be an Indiana legend. He spent 4 years (2 coaches) helping IU be a top program while he was here. Why would 4guards not like DJ.

  14. IU Basketball is starting to get a real tradition of quality “walk-on” players: Eric Suhr, Kyle Tabor, Danny Moore, and now Jeff Howard. The fans love the grit, determination, hustle and authenticity of these kids who want to prove themselves against the best while playing for their “Home-State” team! Good luck Jeff! Let’s keep this going Coach Crean.

  15. Why do you think so lowly of Bawa and Michel? It seems like you are so confident in your knowledge of their game right now, which I know is just you being negative.

  16. I don’t dislike DJ. He was a good player for us. I just don’t think he is an Indiana legend.

  17. DJ is an IU legend. He carried the team his senior year, and was the best player in an already pretty decent Big 10. It isn’t his fault that Gordon disappeared down the stretch and Sampson got busted – DJ did all he could do despite a very adverse situation. He should be forever beloved by the Hoosier faithful.

  18. Do you just look past how he behaved and reacted to Sampson’s firing? Quitting on the team?
    He carried the team to what? a first round loss with Eric Gordon
    Look, I appreciate everything he did for us, and I am not looking to grill the man… but he is no IU legend. He was a good player for us, and I will leave it at that.

  19. 4ticktirds has poor vision and getting worse. If White is not an IU legend then I would hate to live on the difference.

  20. 22 points, 9 rebs for DJ vs. Arkanas. (Ej had 8 points and was 2-13 from the field). Do you call that quitting on the team, you imbecile?

  21. You must have forgotten about him skipping practice and threatening to quit while he was supposed to be the leader on the team.

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