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The next big thing

Howard already pondering making jump to NBA

Posted: Thursday June 19, 2003 11:26 AM

  Dave Telep - Recruiting Watch

Fast forward to June 2004. International players continue to invade the NBA Draft, college seniors get no pre-draft love and, barring an age limitation, high school kids are still doing heat checks on their draft status.

Next June, if Dwight Howard isnt the hottest high school-to-the-NBA commodity, hes second. The Atlanta-based big man has emerged as the top player in his class, and in this time and place, that honor translates into a major decision: Should I stay or should I go?

Thats a hard decision, Howard said. I always wanted to win a championship on every level. I guess college would be good. Thats about the hardest decision Ill have to make. Ill have to just hold the fork in the road.

Rest assured, that road will fork. Howard is an impressive combination of athleticism, skill and determination. The 6-foot-10 center continues to improve and has flashed his game in a positive light at each event hes played this spring and summer.

Simply put, hell have a decision to make next year. Hes putting colleges in a tough spot. Hes a great student and appears to have an interest in college, but can a program really spend a lot of time recruiting a guy in his position?

Probably not. Kwame Brown taught college coaches a lesson. For more than two years, Billy Donovan thought he had his dream recruit. The Washington Wizards turned that dream into a nightmare.

The way Howard talks these days, you can tell that hes a young man with some balance in his life. Hes got a great perspective on the type of decision he has to make and how to go about being successful.

If you look at the players who were successful out of high school and the players who came out and didnt do as well, I think its the work ethic. I think Kobe, Tracy and Kevin Garnett said they wanted to be great.

Greatness is something that Howard isnt afraid to aspire to. Hes setting the bar high. From where he is now to where he wants to be after the summer, hes all about getting to the top of the mountain.

I have a list of goals. I guess to be the No. 1 player in the nation, bar none. I guess to be head and shoulders above everybody else and pass LeBron James for the best high school player ever.

Folks, Dwight Howard isnt messing around.

I just go day by day and try to get better so you can assure yourself that you can make it to the NBA. For me, it makes you just want to keep playing and get in the gym. You wouldnt be in that position if you just stayed at home.

Georgia Tech, Duke, Florida State, North Carolina and Florida State make up his list, but hes not thinking about college right now. Like a Saturday round in a PGA Tour event, the summer is moving day for Howard.

Great momentum can be generated in July. The NBA guys send out scouts and watchdogs to keep tabs on the high schoolers. A good month can really do wonders for Howard. An average month, and youll see the colleges slowly increase their interest level.

High school to college to the NBA? High school to the NBA? No matter how you draw it up, all paths lead to the same place. Its just a matter of time.

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