The story of Stigler post player Hiahni Howard is less about basketball prowess and more about character and a team that makes that a big part of their program. But that’s not to discount her talent. “She was an all-conference player last year, our leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker and her quick hands help us on defense,” said second-year coach Gary Hollingshed.
The importance of character is not lost on Hollingshed who talked about some of the features of his program in that regard. “In the locker room we have a big sign that says, ‘Person greater than Player’. We want them to know that we care less about the mistakes they make in basketball and more about how they respond and use those as learning tools. Each girl also has what we call a Panther box, and they collect things over the course of their career to put in there like a rubber bouncy ball to remind them about bouncing back from adversity or notes of encouragement from coaches and teammates. It helps remind them that life is more than just basketball.” Hiahni probably has more than one bouncy ball in her Panther box as she and her mother have been coping with her dad’s health issues.
“She’s been really strong through that. I’ve seen her personality waiver back and forth at times and it really inspires me to see how she fights through that and not lose who she is,” said Hollingshed. “She might have a golf ball in her Panther box too. Early golf balls were smooth and as they were hit, they became dented or dimpled but they found that made them even more effective. And that’s they way it’s been with Hiahni.”
Howard, who also plays softball, got her start in basketball in the fourth grade. “Because I was tall (5-11 now), mom got me into basketball figuring I could be good at it. In sixth grade she formed a team with me and my friends and we’ve been playing together in school and summer ball ever since.” stated Hiahni.
Hollingshed closed with some thoughts on his post player, maybe hinting at another item for her Panther box.
“Hiahni is very humble and a team-first player who would much rather be seen as a great teammate rather than a great leader. Life is definitely throwing some curve balls at her, and she just keeps knocking them out of the park.”