Malina Howard discusses her Terps pledge
Malina Howard can’t recall how many visits she has made to College Park over the past three years.
But what the 6-foot-5 center from Twinsburg (Ohio) High is able to quite clearly remember is how she felt during her latest trip to Maryland’s campus, which took place last weekend.
“I was very much undecided” between Maryland and Notre Dame, Howard said. “I had been confused for awhile, confused between the two. I was just waiting for that feeling, and Saturday afternoon, after we had a meeting, it finally hit me that I really felt like I belonged there. It feels great. I’m really excited to finally have figured out where I’m going.”
With her commitment Saturday, Howard became the centerpiece of another highly touted Maryland recruiting class. A five-star prospect and ESPN.com’s No. 7 player nationally, Howard joins 6-2 forward Tierney Pfirman (four stars, No. 22 player overall) and 5-6 point guard Chloe Pavlech (four stars) in Terps coach Brenda Frese’s 2012 class.
Pavlech played an important role in Howard announcing her decision. The two Ohio natives and Sport City U AAU teammates were sitting next to each other at an off-campus Italian restaurant with nearly the entire Maryland team.
“[Pavlech] stood up and said, ‘Malina has an announcement.’ [Then] I said I was committing,” said Howard, who noted that Pavlech never pressured her into picking the Terps. “All the players were there, all the coaches were there. They were screaming and happy. It was very emotional.”
Howard’s college decision was a long time coming. When Julie Solis got the Twinsburg coaching job before the 2009-10 season, Howard was already a nationally known commodity with several high-major offers. While the future Terp has had that level of fame since before her sophomore year, Solis said the attention never affected her work ethic or attitude.
“There’s a ton [of attention] surrounding Malina, in the state and nationally,” Solis said. “She’s just a regular, humble young lady. Because of that, it’s been my pleasure to coach her. She’s been nothing but fantastic through the years. She’s great academically, great athletically, and also just a great person. … Her teammates have tremendous respect for her. Her opponents have tremendous respect for her. She just loves the game and plays the game hard. She handles herself with [great] maturity off the floor.”
For Solis, Howard easily lived up to the hype over the past two seasons. As a junior, Howard averaged 21 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in leading the Tigers to the Ohio Division I state championship. For her efforts, she was named the Cleveland Plain-Dealer Player of the Year and the Ohio Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Year. There’s not much Howard hasn’t accomplished at the high school level. For college coaches, Howard was the total package.
“For her size, she defends very well [and] defends along the perimeter,” Solis said. “She’s very versatile for her size. Offensively, she does very well with her back to the basket. She has improved her game from the outside. She’s a very good shooter from 3, and has the ability to get to the basket.”
Howard always thought Maryland offered a promising opportunity for her on the court. She could, conceivably, fill the role currently occupied by senior Lynetta Kizer, who Howard says she “really admires.” She also developed a great relationship with Frese. And academically, Maryland had everything the prospective kinesiology student wanted.
“I want to be a physical therapist, so I’m hoping to go to PT school,” said Howard, who has a 4.29 GPA and is ranked 11th in her class. “All the professors I talked to really love what they’re doing and really care about their students. … [The Maryland coaches] knew how important it was for me to be able to get my studies done. I wanted to be able to finish my major in three and a half years, so I can start my graduate studies early. I just like being challenged in school.”
Howard said the reaction to her Terps commitment has been extremely positive. She’s excited to get started on her Maryland career in 2012, when she’ll join a veteran team that could be a national contender.
“We’re hoping we can do some big things my freshman year and I can contribute a lot,” Howard said. “I’m determined to do whatever the coaches want me to do.”