Hollywood Swinging: A Hoops and Young Life’s Journey, Part I

[h2]The University of Maryland’s Pe’Shon Howard is anxious to get back to doing what he loves, leading a basketball team to victories.[/h2]


With the playoffs under way, the majority of college basketball players being talked about right now are those projected to be picked in the upcoming NBA draft. But although they might’ve exited the national spotlight until next season, there are hundreds of players on campus sweating through arduous weightlifting sessions, trying to improve their grasp of a new position, pushing their bodies to the limit of physical exertion, shooting thousands of free throws or fighting their way back from injury, banking that the sweat equity they’re depositing now will pay handsome dividends in the years to come.


The University of Maryland’s sophomore point guard, Pe’Shon Howard, is one such player. Entering this year with excitement and purpose, the majority of his season was lost to foot and knee injuries.


His public image has also taken a recent hit for an incident involving the College Park, Maryland police, where he was cited for disorderly conduct, ostensibly for yelling at someone who started a fight in a restaurant, even when the police ordered him to stop doing so.


“I’m disappointed because I should’ve handled it better, could have handled it differently and should’ve made sure it didn’t happen,” said Howard. “But the people who really know me know what type of person I am.”


The ironic thing as that most will form a negative opinion of him based on a news headline, without having all of the facts and the context to view the situation objectively. That’s just the society we live in, one of knee-jerk reactions and microwave judgments. The ironic thing is, if you ask anyone who knows Pe’Shon Howard, they’ll tell you that he’s one of the most sincere, endearing, and humble kids around.


A Los Angeles native and versatile, sturdily built 6-foot-3 floor general, he’s also a perpetual double-double threat whenever he steps on the court. Fundamentally sound and well-schooled, as evidenced by being among the ACC’s leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio as a freshman, Pe’Shon is a rarity in today’s culture of athletic freaks that wouldn’t know a box-out if it smacked them in the head.

And yet, he can also push the ball and dazzle with flair and a sense of showmanship, whipping behind-the-back and no-look passes like a miniature Magic Johnson.

Pe'Shon Howard (Photo Credit: Washington Post)

If his team needs him to score, no problem. Ball movement? No problem. Feed the hot shooter? No problem. Establish the big man in the post? No problem. Need rebounds? No problem.


No moment would appear to be too big for Pe’shon, considering that he was hanging out with Hollywood movie stars at the age of five. It’s almost as if he was destined for the bright lights from an early age.


He has an innate sixth sense on the court that impacts a game in many ways, along with a natural propensity for leadership. He was raised to see beyond what’s on the surface and into the realm of what’s possible.


Pe’Shon is an articulate optimist, driven yet unassuming, pensive yet assertive, soft-spoken yet powerful in the positive energy he exudes. He’s also hungry for next year, determined to elevate the Maryland Terps to the level he believes they should consistently be at: a perpetual NCAA Tournament team.


Pe’Shon sat down for a wide-ranging conversation with CoachGeorgeRaveling.com, discussing, among other things, his upbringing, his goals, his basketball journey, the injuries that tested him this year, being featured in a best-selling book and the goals he’s committed to achieving in the future.


Here is part I of our discussion.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: I’m sure you came into this season excited. What happened with the foot injury at the beginning of the year?


Pe’Shon Howard: One day in practice, we hadn’t even had our first team scrimmage yet, I was feeling and playing well, but my foot started hurting later that afternoon when I was going to class. I was having trouble walking and in class, I couldn’t keep my shoe on. I had to walk on the outside of my foot. I told the trainers it was hurting really bad, we got it X-rayed and found that it was a broken sesamoid bone in my left foot. I got a caste, they gave me an orthotic so there wouldn’t be any pressure under the ball of my foot and they said I was supposed to be out for three months.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: You came back much earlier than expected. Was there some trepidation when you hit the court? And when did you start to feel comfortable again?


My first game back, against Radford, I jabbed right, pushed off of it and went right through the press. I felt good from there. It wasn’t in my mind anymore.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: Take us through the ACL tear that ended the year for you, which had to be tough to swallow.


We’d just played Clemson and I didn’t play that well. We were getting ready for Duke and I wanted to have a really good practice. I was dribbling, coming off a pick, and Duke likes to double-team off the pick. My teammate who was guarding me showed hard and I was on the sideline trying to execute an in-and-out dribble. My foot just got stuck. I felt my knee buckle and then this indescribable pain. I was crawling on the floor screaming. I was thinking the worst, but eventually calmed down. By the next morning, it was really swollen. We took an X-ray and I found out that I was done for the season.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: How long did you have to wait until surgery?


I had to do pre-hab on it so I could get as much bending as possible because the stronger your leg is before the surgery, the easier the recovery will be afterwards. I tore my meniscus also, so they did both surgeries at once.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: You have an incredible calm and great outlook, but I know you had to be disappointed.


This summer, I was in great shape and felt like I was playing really well. I also felt like I was going to have a much better grasp of the college game than I did last year as a freshman. I was really confident coming into the season, and I knew that coach was going to be depending on me and playing me a lot.


After I got hurt the first time, I was happy to be playing, but didn’t feel like I was at my best. I felt like I was a few steps behind everybody else and playing catch-up. In the Florida State game, I felt like my legs were finally under me and I was starting to be more aggressive. When I tore my ACL, I felt like I let my team down.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: What visions did you have in terms of how the season could play out, before you got hurt?


People were counting us out before the season even began, but I felt like we had enough talent to make a run at the tournament. I thought we could really surprise some people.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: When people think about college kids on spring break, they think about craziness and debauchery. But talk about what spring break is like for an ACC basketball player.


Mandatory workouts don’t start until after spring break, but most guys are in here working out on their own. I would do my rehab – leg lifts, working on my quad, different exercises to get my knee to flatten out and get complete range, stuff like that – and then I’d watch the other guys work out.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: How do you maintain your optimism in light of losing most of the season to injuries?


I would think to myself, ‘Man, it’s crazy how this year has gone.’ But I never got too down. The foot didn’t hurt so bad. The knee hurt really bad, that was pain that I’d never felt before. But once I was able to get through that pain, there was nothing to be down about. Once I got through the first few weeks after surgery, I was feeling good, like, ‘I made it through the hard part and now I just have to be patient.’ My main concern, when I come back as a junior, is to help the team. I know I’ll get a fresh start next year.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: Were you reaching out to some folks in your circle to get some perspective on the anterior cruciate ligament injury?


I talked to Dexter Strickland at North Carolina about his, did some research and started noticing, around the nation, that it’s common injury, especially among girls. Most of the players on our women’s team have torn an ACL, so I’ve been able to talk to them about it.


I look at Purdue’s Robbie Hummell, he injured it twice and played great this year. Tony Wroten and Quincy Miller tore theirs in high school and they’ve been able to bounce back and play well. I’ve been through tough things before and I just look at it as a challenge.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: Growing up in California, when did your interest in sports first present itself?


I started playing in organized league’s at the YMCA when I was five, but when I was three or four, I always wanted to go outside to throw a football and shoot some hoops. My dad would take me to the gyms in Inglewood and Pasadena, I’d be in three league’s at one time and he’d run me from one gym in the morning, another in the afternoon and another one for a night game.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: Tell me about your dad, who was a hairdresser in Hollywood, because he seems like a real dynamic person, a monumental and positive force in your development, not only as a player, but also as a well-grounded, humble and driven young man.


My dad was always there, instilling that mindset of, ‘Don’t just do stuff to do it, do it to be great!’ That was always the mindset I had playing ball and doing my school work. And with my knee being hurt, it’s just another challenge I’ll work through because of that mindset.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: What’s your father’s background?


He was born in Houston, raised in Los Angeles and he played football, ran track and gravitated towards the movie business when he got older. He understood my athletic hunger and if there was something I wanted to do, he encouraged me to always give it my best, to strive for the best.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: How old were you when your father took you in to raise you, because biologically, he’s your grandfather, right?


I’ve been with him pretty much since birth.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: So, were there some adverse situations going on, where he stepped in and said, ‘I’ve got this. I’m going to take my grandson and raise him as if he was my son,’?


Exactly. People always talk about the adverse effects they experienced because they didn’t have their parents in their life, but that wasn’t the case with me. It never affected me because I’ve always been with my dad and he did the best job possible taking care of me.


And that is what I call him, my dad. I don’t even know the full extent of what the situation was and how I wound up with him. And I always tell him that he saved my life because the rest of my family are in situations where they probably wouldn’t have been able to do the things he did for me, things that enabled me to be in the situation I’m in today.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: Break that down.


He took care of me, took me under his wing, I saw his success in Hollywood and in the movie business, one of the toughest industries to find success in. I was able to be around success, to see it and I always expected to be successful because of that and because of him. He took me to Australia for the Olympics when I was younger, he took me to France, took me to places that most kids my age can’t envision because they have no frame of reference. Those are the things I’m appreciative of.


CoachGeorgeRaveling.com: So you feel like having that frame of reference, of what success looks like, made you have certain expectations of what you wanted to achieve?


Yeah, and I never really noticed it until I was a teenager. People get crazy when they see movie stars and pro athletes, but I was around these types of people since I was a little kid. I was around people like Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry when I was five years old. So, I don’t get excited about stuff like that. I know that, even though they’re famous, that they’re just regular people.


Going to Australia, I look at that and say, ‘I can do that for my kids one day, I can put them in those types of situations.’ I’m so happy and grateful for what he did for me, because that influenced my expectations. It made me want to achieve the best.


Stay tuned for the Part II of our interview with University of Maryland Point Guard Pe’Shon Howard, later this week.

Alejandro Danois, Bounce Magazine’s Senior Editor and a Contributing Writer with Dime Magazine, is also a freelance sports and entertainment writer whose work has been published by the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and Sporting News, among others.

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