Being a first-year player in a tradition-rich basketball program hasn't bothered Southern High sophomore Chatney Howard in the least.
Howard, 15, the county's fourth-leading scorer at 18.2 points per game, has been a model of offensive consistency throughout the Bulldogs 8-6 season, reaching double figures in all 14 games.
The slender 6-2, 157-pound forward, who made his team's starting lineup without the benefit of junior varsity competition, is a product of many hard-fought pickup games with older brother Rodney, 22, an ex-South River standout.
"Playing against guys bigger than me really helped out a lot," said Howard, who also averages more than seven rebounds a game.
"My brother and his friends played real physical.I think that's why I don't mind going down low, getting physical andgoing up strong for rebounds."
The West River resident made an auspicious debut in Southern's opening game of the season, pouring in 22 points in a 72-68 win Dec. 6 over Great Mills of St. Mary's County.
Four days later, he tallied 19 against Arundel, then fell to a season low of 11 in a win at Queen Anne's Dec. 13.
"They were double-teaming me for most of the (Queen Anne's) game. It wasn't that my game was really off, I just couldn't get things going like I wanted," said Howard.
After being held in check by the Lions, Howard went onto hit a career-high 26 points on two occasions, a 79-69 loss at Meade, and in the finals of the Dogs' Christmas Tournament. In the latter, a rematch against Great Mills, he also ripped down a season-best 15 rebounds in a 63-51 triumph.
"The finals of the Christmas Tournament and the South River game (a 69-62 loss at home Dec. 19) were my two best games of the year," Howard said.
"I was so pumped up against South River. We wanted to beat them so bad, and I wanted to beat them because my brother played for them. I think we'll be ready for them next time," said Howard, who totaled 22 points and eight reboundsagainst the 12-2 Seahawks.
"I try not to think about offense too much because I want to be an all-around player," he said. "That's my goal, to be good at everything. Every chance I get, I'm out there working on my game, ball-handling, shooting, defense, everything."
Southern head coach Tom Albright thinks his player is on the right course to achieve even greater success.
"He's very young, and this is the first time he's been in an organized high school program. His development is coming along just fine, but we're not there yet," said Albright, a 27-year coaching veteran.
"He's learning about a lot of things both on the court and off the court that's required if he wants to stay in a successful program."
Howard, whose favorite subjects are math and science, admits to not giving an all-out effort duringninth grade. However, he said he is committed to improving his classroom work ethic.
"This year, I'm a lot more serious," he said.
"I played around a lot in ninth grade -- you know how it is, it's your first year of high school and all. I could have done a lot better. But I'm doing better now."
"For a first year player, he's done great," Albright said. "He's still got some things to work on, and he knows that. He's just done a great job so far, but he hasn't done anything that I haven't expected him to do. Nothing that he's done on the court has surprised me.
"We need to get him a little bit stronger,and we need to get some of the little things out of his game, such as over-dribbling and overpassing.
"But with his build, he's very deceptive. He looks gangly coming down the floor, with his arms going one way and his legs going the other, and it's hard to defense a kid like that. Plus, he has good hand-eye coordination. He shoots well, he rebounds well, and he's improving on defense."
Howard's quiet, soft-spoken demeanor often reflects the way he sneaks up on his opponents.
"I think he's a good overall player," said Severna Park coachWayne Mook, whose Falcons were edged by the Dogs, 80-76, Friday. "He's not real vocal or anything, he just lets his game do the talking. He had 15 points against us, and I didn't even realize it until afterthe game. He's just a good team player."