A Wright State men’s basketball team whose greatest asset may be depth appears to be getting even deeper heading into this week’s Horizon League tournament.
Freshman guard Mark Howell worked his way into the rotation Saturday at Illinois-Chicago, and once Howell got in the game, coach Billy Donlon had a hard time taking him out.
Howell tied his season high with five points and added a two assists, a rebound and a steal while committing only one turnover in 15 minutes of action, 10 of which came in key moments in the second half of the Raiders’ 68-61 victory.
“I feel like Coach Donlon put me out there with confidence,” Howell said. “That’s what made me go out there and play like that, Coach D having the confidence in me.”
Donlon said he’s always had confidence in the 5-foot-10, 150-pounder from Grand Prairie, Texas, otherwise he wouldn’t have recruited him.
The spike in playing time Saturday was the culmination of a number of factors.
“Mark has worked hard at practice and he’s played well in practice,” Donlon said. “I thought (Saturday) with the fouls and with the way certain guys played in the first half, I wasn’t really all that happy with. Mark went out there and made the most of his opportunity, so I went with him again in the second half.
“I always talk about being active and alert,” Donlon added. “The biggest thing for any young player is that the game is so much faster and there’s more going on than they’re used to. You have to be alert off the ball, and Mark was very good at that on both ends.”
Competing against older and stronger players is a challenge for most freshmen, especially at Wright State, where Donlon’s defensive scheme takes some time to learn.
“We all know how talented Mark is offensively,” senior guard Matt Vest said. “It’s kind of always been a defensive issue with him. But once he got out there and hit a shot and got comfortable, he started feeling good. I’m really proud of what he did tonight.”
Added senior forward AJ Pacher: “I keep telling him he’s getting himself in good position, he just has to work a little harder. I really thought he worked his tail off (Saturday).”