Freshmen on the Butler women’s basketball team had big shoes to fill after losing five players to graduation last year.
Freshman forward Haley Howard was one of those faced with the task.
“I kind of just went in there with as much confidence as I could as an 18-year-old freshman and just played,” Howard said.
Howard has had an immediate impact on the team, starting 13 of 18 games this season for the Bulldogs and averaging 9.4 points per game while playing nearly 22 minutes per contest.
Howard has also had success in an area her male counterparts at Butler have struggled with.
While the men’s team is shooting 62.0 percent from the charity stripe through 21 games, Howard is shooting 94.9 percent from the free throw line through 18 games.
“I shoot a lot of free throws after practice,” Howard said. “It’s something coach always says is very controllable, and I completely agree, so I’ve always tried to focus on making them, especially since they’re free.”
While it can be daunting to start so many games as a freshman, Howard enjoys the excitement that comes with the duty.
“It was hard to get used to it,” she said. “It’s tough, but it makes you feel the hype of getting to start out the game.”
Coach Beth Couture said she first saw Howard had the potential to start regularly when the team started practice in October.
“About one to two weeks in, we saw her skill set could help us with the scoring we lost from the year before,” Couture said.
With the absence of the team’s three leading scorers from last season, Howard said she realized that she and the other freshmen players needed to step up in the positions they were assigned.
“I feel they were roles we were thrown into rather than earned,” Howard said.
Couture said it is difficult to be put in the starting lineup on a regular basis as a freshman.
“It’s really tough for a freshman to step in and do as well as she did early, especially with a young team,” Couture said. “I think it can be hard to handle sometimes.”
Howard said her veteran teammates told her to take advantage of the time she spends on the floor.
“For the amount of time you’re in, you’re just busting your butt all the time, 24/7,” Howard said. “They told me you have absolutely nothing to lose. The weird thing is that they told me individually and not even as a group.”
Senior guard Devin Brierly said that Howard has what is necessary for a freshman to make an early impact.
“I think a freshman playing a significant role on the team is great if they are ready to rise to the occasion when need be and have a hard work ethic,” Brierly said. “Haley is an extremely talented young lady and can do some damage to other teams with her talent and skill.”
Howard said there simply is no comparison between playing in college and playing in high school.
“There are things you learn you never even thought about before,” Howard said. “[That includes] a lot of studying and scouting your opposition and their offensive and defensive plays.”
While it may be challenging to play such a significant role so early in a college career, Howard said she is enjoying her rookie season.
“It gets really hard, but it’s definitely worth it, and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world,” Howard said.