Florida State star Natasha Howard was named to the Head Coaches All-ACC First team and ACC All-Defensive team yesterday and Seminoles.com described the impressive statistical profile that justifies the selections.
Howard has enjoyed a senior season for the ages, averaging 21.2 points, 9.3 rebounds while shooting 60.3 percent. According to the latest NCAA statistics, Howard is one of just six players in the nation shooting above 60 percent from the floor.
The Toledo, Ohio, native recently earned a spot on the ACC Women's Basketball Championship All-Tournament Team. In FSU's second-round matchup against Miami, she recorded her 40th career double-double with 30 points and 16 rebounds in an important 72-67 overtime victory. She followed that up with 29 points on 14-of-22 shooting facing constant double teams against No. 1 seed Notre Dame.
And if you're looking for one game to pull up from the archives as particularly exemplary of what Howard offers as a WNBA draft prospect, that last 83-57 loss to Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament on Friday might be it.
Bear in mind that Howard had just 11 points on 5-for-13 shooting in her first meeting against Notre Dame, in part due to not getting the ball in the post when she was open (an epidemic problem in women's college basketball) and in part due to her own inability to establish position on the block.
Part of what made that last game impressive was the variety of moves that she has in her repertoire, which she discussed in the video above with Debbie Antonelli. But two things that really stood out - both in the game and in Antonelli's breakdown - about Howard are her decisiveness and how good Howard is as a scorer when facing up.
Early in the season, her decisiveness sometimes seemed to skew toward rigidity as she'd go into her move: she would rely heavily on a really nice crossover from the wing, get stuck in a bad position, and find herself out of position to make a play. Against Notre Dame on Friday, she just looked like a more patient yet still decisive player who had a better feel for what to when she got the ball - against the slower Natalie Achonwa, her quick first step allowed her to find decent looks even as the entire Irish defense keyed in on her.
Howard has athleticism that even the nation's elite defenses struggle to contain. However, these two games against Notre Dame might also reveal two areas of improvement that could make Howard an even more elite prospect.
In the first game, she struggled to score for the reasons noted above: she wasn't able to fight with Notre Dame's bigs to establish position. In the second game, she only had five rebounds and got primarily those boards that she could find by out jumping others. As a slender 6-foot-3 player, the combination suggests a weakness that people have long been aware of: competing against stronger players in the post as someone who was lauded for her perimeter skills as a college recruit.
There are two ways to look at Howard's balance of weaknesses and phenomenal statistics: the pessimistic perspective would be to say that she won't be nearly the player she is now once she's up against WNBA competition. The optimistic perspective, and the way that I suspect WNBA general managers are looking at it, is that Howard has enormous upside: with her combination of athleticism, length, and an outstanding post-up game she could develop into a devastating pro power forward with an improved back-to-the-basket game and some strength.