When Bailey Howard was a senior at Brown County, the Eagles lost to Sullivan in the sectional final on a last-second 3-pointer.
Howard is hoping his college basketball career doesn’t end in the same way. The leading scorer on the Franklin College men’s basketball team is intent on leading the Grizzlies to a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament title and a postseason berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
“I’m pleased,” Howard described his college career, which is winding to a close. “The one thing that would tie it all in would be a conference championship. In high school, we lost the sectional on a last-second shot, so I haven’t won anything as a team.”
If the Grizzlies can make their first NCAA appearance since 2008, Howard will have played a major role. He leads the team and ranks second in the HCAC with 20.4 points a game.
In a Dec. 7 win at Bluffton, Howard tied a school record by hitting all seven of his 3-point attempts and scored 45 points, one short of the school mark. The 5-foot-11 senior is shooting a team-best 47.3 percent from 3-point range and 82.2 percent from the free-throw line.
“Bailey has the combination of skills that you’d like for all perimeter players to have because he can shoot it at an incredible range, he can drive it, he’s strong both in terms of the range of his shot and being able to finish in traffic,” Franklin coach Kerry Prather said. “He’s just a load.
“He’s the guy on the scouting report that is an all-around challenge,” he said. “If you’re going to try to take his 3 away, he’s going to put it on the floor. If you’re going to give him a little space and play his drive, he’s going to drop it in your eye. He’s caused a lot of problems for a lot of defenses that we’ve faced.”
Howard’s season was slowed by a rolled ankle right after Christmas break, an injury that still nags him. The game after he hurt the ankle, he injured his shoulder and missed the next two games.
Still, Howard ranks second on the team with 1.2 steals a game.
“It’s kind of been up and down,” Howard said. “I’ve had some injuries, but overall, it’s been a pretty good season.”
Franklin’s season as a team has also been up and down. The Grizzlies are 9-10, including 6-6 in the HCAC.
“We have some games that are pretty good and some games that are pretty bad, but I think we’re starting to make that turn,” Howard said. “If we rally off these eight games, we’re going to be all right.”
Howard ranks 19th on Franklin’s career scoring list with 1,302 points.
“He’s a very quiet leader,” Prather said. “He’s an example guy more than he is a leader by word, but his example is really good.
“One of the places where I’ve used Bailey a lot is to confirm what we’ve preached to guys about investing their own personal time in the gym because Bailey lives in the gym,” he said. “That’s why his skills have continued to progress over the years. He’s gotten better every year because he’s spent an enormous amount of time every year.”
A dean’s list student, the health science and biology major wants to be a medical salesman.
“Working with coach Prather and being a part of the basketball program makes you tough for the real world,” Howard said. “It gets you ready for anything.”
That may or may not include playing basketball professionally. Howard said former Brown County assistant Rudy Crabtree told him he would use some of his connections to try to get him a job playing overseas if Howard wanted.
“I played varsity all four years in high school and all four years in college,” Howard said. “I think it would be a good time to end it. But we’ll see.”
Max Niehans, an assistant pro at Harrison Lake Country Club, has been best friends with Howard since Howard’s freshman year at Brown County. Niehans got Howard a job working at Harrison Lake this past summer.
“He’s a laid-back, fun-loving kid,” Niehans said. “He doesn’t get too upset about anything, never gets too emotional, and you can see that on the basketball court,” Niehans said. “He’s always been one of those kids that if he wants to do it, he’ll get it done.”
Niehans, who played golf and basketball with Howard in high school, said Howard has major golf skills.
“I’m not exaggerating, but he hits the golf ball farther than probably 80 percent of the tour pros,” Niehans said.
During his time at Harrison Lake, Howard worked in the pro shop, took water to members and picked up golf balls. He said he developed his social skills in socializing with the members.
“I have simply not met a finer young man, who is well versed in basketball and life,” Harrison Lake member John Carmichael said. “At the (Division III) level, you play for the love of the game and it’s no exception with Bailey.”
“He’s a quality young man,” Prather said. “Everybody on the team likes Bailey, and he’s one of those guys you naturally gravitate to because he has a real good personality about him.”