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Point guard a rising star

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Howard gaining attention for her play on the court

By Nick Schrager

By Nick Schrager

Enterprise correspondent

Whether she’s making points, setting up teammates to score, or just making it look easy, Marion County Lady Knight Haeli Howard does it all.

The 14-year-old, 5-foot-4-inch tall freshman point guard got her start playing with the Lady Knights three years ago when she was in the sixth grade. 

While that’s an early start, she’s been playing basketball for even longer than that.

Haeli first stepped on the court in the third grade when her stepdad, Bradley Howard, started showing her the basics of the game.

Bradley noted that Haeli had played soccer before making the jump to basketball.

“One winter when she was seven or eight years old she said ‘I want to try basketball,’” Bradley said.

So the two of them started out with the rules of the game and shooting.

“She’s pretty smart. She takes it in. You tell her to do something and she can do it,” Bradley said.

From there, Haeli played two years of youth basketball and sustained an injury.

“She first started out in (Little) League,” Bradley said. “Her first practice she broke her wrist.” 

After finishing youth basketball strong, Haeli entered middle school, but she would not play there for long. 

Brief stints at St. Augustine and Lebanon Middle School convinced former Lady Knights Coach Trent Milby to promote Haeli to the high school level.

When she joined the team, Haeli said that it was fun to be able to play with older athletes.

“It was actually pretty fun to be able to experience being with all these players,” Haeli said.

But she also said she was a bit apprehensive at times about playing with the seasoned veterans.

“Whenever I would actually get to play I was actually kind of nervous,” she said.

After playing for a year at Marion County High School, her new coach, Anthony Epps, said Haeli began to play at the varsity level. According to him, it’s not unusual to see girls at such a young age play at the varsity level. That’s why some finish their careers with high scores. 

Epps also said that Haeli is adapting from having a supporting role last year to playing a star role this year.

“I think Haeli has played really well this season being that she has started every game at the point and she’s only a freshman,” Epps wrote in an email. ”She’s has adapted really well from being a role player on a very talented team last season, to being more of a focal point this season.” 

According to him, Haeli has already scored 497 points to date and this year she is averaging 12.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.

“She will have a wonderful high school career and has a chance to be one of the greats to ever wear a Lady Knight uniform,” Epps said.

While she has some work ahead of her, Haeli has a very bright future, according to her coach.

“The sky is the limit with how far Haeli will go with basketball.” Epps said. “As she matures and gets stronger in the years to come, she will only continue to get better. She has a great work ethic and love for the game that will only help her thrive to get better each year throughout high school. [I’m] really looking forward to seeing the growth in her game in the years to come.”

And while he is excited to see her progress, so are a lot of others.

Bradley said he spoke with Bret McCormick of the All Star Girls Report over the summer and said Haeli was ranked in the top 60 out of over 700 players for the class of 2017.

In a phone interview, McCormick said that he lost track of Haeli but confirmed she was ranked in the top 100 on his list and remembered her excellent performance while she was playing under the direction of Milby.

Back home however, Bradley said it has been good to watch Haeli come from humble beginnings to where she is today.

“Last year was absolutely a blast,” Bradley said. He later added, “She‘s gained so much by playing with Makayla [Epps] and Kyvin [Goodin-Rogers] and Patrice [Tonge] – a lot of memories that can’t be taken away from her.”

While winning the state championship is Haeli’s most memorable moment to date, for now, she is enjoying the game and being with her teammates. 

She hopes the Lady Knights can win district this year, and she believes the Lady Knights can reach that goal.

“If we play to our full potential, we do,” Haeli said.