Parkland's Howard doesn't let slight size deter him on court
DANVILLE — Cornelius McIntosh first met Terrion Howard during his orientation at Parkland College.
McIntosh, a 6-foot-4 guard from Chicago, wasn't quite sure why Howard, who stands a foot shorter than McIntosh, was there.
"I didn't know he played basketball," McIntosh said.
Howard does. And the Champaign native is a key reason why the Cobra men's basketball program is at the NJCAA Division II national tournament for the second straight season.
The sophomore guard is averaging 9.7 points — second on the team behind McIntosh — and will start for Parkland (27-3) when the Cobras take on Johnson County (Kan.) Community College (24-8) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Parkland's first-round game at Danville Area Community College's Mary Miller Gymnasium.
"We get jitters before every game, but our jitters shouldn't be like last year," Howard said. "Our sophomores can be more leaders. Our freshmen, what I would say to them, is it's just a game. Play how you've been playing the rest of the season. Last year going into the game, we were scared. This means more, but it's just a game."
A game the 5-4 Howard has played nearly his entire life.
The Centennial graduate, who attended Carrie Busey Elementary School and Edison Middle School in Champaign before becoming a News-Gazette first-team All-Area contributor for the Chargers during the 2014-15 season, didn't see much recruitment before Parkland coach Anthony Figueroa took a chance on him.
"I just made the most of it," Howard said. "When I first came here, I didn't have my confidence, so it's just kept building and building."
Howard has dealt with skeptics most of his life based on his height. He and guard Joe Larry, who is 5-11, are the only two players on Parkland's roster who stand under 6-feet tall. It doesn't faze Howard, though.
"Some people, they don't know what I'm capable of, but me and my team know what I'm capable of," Howard said. "That's really all that matters."
Howard has reached double-figure scoring totals in 15 Parkland games this season, including a season-high 26 points during a 108-58 rout of Illinois Wesleyan University's junior varsity team on Feb. 14.
He's efficient behind the three-point line, making 37 of 85 (43.5 percent) from deep, and also at the free-throw line. He's made 69 of 77 free throws this season, good for an 89.6 percent clip.
"He's our leader at the point guard position," McIntosh said. "He's got to get us into our sets and bring the defensive intensity. Plus, he's a great person. He's easy-going and funny."
Howard will graduate from Parkland in May and isn't sure where his next stop is. Yet.
"I'll be finding out pretty soon," he said. "I want to continue to play basketball and use basketball to pay for my education."
The education he's received in the classroom and on the court at Parkland has benefitted Howard in ways he didn't even realize were possible. Despite growing up in Champaign, he didn't know much about Parkland before arriving in the fall of 2015.
Now, he's more than happy to pass on the word about his experiences at the junior college in north Champaign.
"People from Champaign don't like to stay in Champaign," Howard said. "When I was growing up, all I heard was, 'Use basketball to get out of Champaign.' Parkland is a good school, and not everybody knows it.
"I've been here two years and played here for two years, (and) I can recommend it to other people. People are always chasing Division I, but this is a good step for whatever your future holds."
Ready to tip off
Both Parkland basketball teams Tuesday will start their road to respective NJCAA Division II national tournament titles. A glance at the men’s and women’s pairings:
MEN’S TOURNAMENT (AT DANVILLE)
Game 1: Pima (Ariz.) CC (21-11) vs. Waubonsee CC (25-8), 9 a.m.
Game 2: Southwestern (Iowa) CC (32-1) vs. College of Southern Maryland (14-16), 11 a.m.
Game 3: South Suburban College (21-11) vs. Dakota County (Minn.) Technical College (14-14), 1 p.m.
Game 4: Macomb (Mich.) CC (27-5) vs. Niagara County (N.Y.) CC (24-5), 3 p.m.
Game 5: Parkland (27-3) vs. Johnson County (Kan.) CC (24-8), 6:30 p.m.
Game 6: Richard Bland (Va.) College (28-4) vs. Cincinnati State (25-7), 8:30 p.m.
WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT (AT HARRISON, ARK.)
Game 1: Monroe (N.Y) CC (26-3) vs. Macomb (Mich.) CC (19-10), 9 a.m.
Game 2: Guilford Tech (N.C.) CC (28-3) vs. St. Louis CC (23-8), 11 a.m.
Game 3: Kalamazoo (Mich.) Valley CC (28-3) vs. Moraine Valley (16-17), 1 p.m.
Game 4: Johnson County (Kan.) CC (30-2) vs. Lackawanna (Pa.) College (19-10), 3 p.m.
Game 5: Kirkwood (Iowa) CC (33-0) vs. Dakota College at Bottineau (N.D.) (16-14), 6 p.m.
Game 6: Parkland (25-6) vs. Cincinnati State (26-6), 8 p.m.