He really shouldn’t be here anymore. A player really doesn’t stick around in the minor league system this long without getting even a glimpse of the big leagues, but he’s still here. He’s seen players come and go from the D-League to the NBA and eventually fade away, but he’s still hanging around hoping for that one chance in the NBA, even if it’s only on a 10 day contract. His on court skills and his statistics in the box scores have always proved he had the skill, but the scouts always overlooked him. Now he’s on the wrong side of 30, but it appears that Mad Ants guard Ron Howard is about to get that chance in the spotlight playing in the NBA.
Ron Howard’s D-League journey started way back in the 2007-08 season with the familiar back-drop of Fort Wayne with the Mad Ants. Like Ron, the Mad Ants were a team wet behind the ears because they were an expansion team that got their unique name from Civil War general General “Mad” Anthony Wayne who was actually the namesake of the city.
The team was awful in that inaugural season, finishing with a record of 17-33 despite a small cameo appearance from future NBA player Dahanty Jones and Walker Russell, who wound end up becoming the long time back-court running mate of Howard. Howard was really a hidden player on that Mad Ants team. He was a starter for most of the season but only averaged 10 PPG despite shooting over 50 percent from the field.
The following season that back-court duo of Russell and Howard really came together despite the team finishing at 19-31. That duo immediately meshed together with Walker Russell feeding the ball to a quick and slashing Howard who made his worth getting to the free throw line time after time. That season Howard averaged nearly 19 points a game without even making a single three point shot. Meanwhile Russell averaged a double-double during the season with 16.1 PPG and a league high 10.6 APG,
Russell played in Europe for the 2009-10 season, and Howard spent some time in Europe and Australia. The duo had been together since Howard’s rookie season. That all ended though on Dec. 27when Russell was sent to Reno for Anthony Richardson and guard Jack McClinton, making Ron Howard into the veteran leader on the Mad Ants. The move also came with a move to point guard for Howard, which was unfamiliar territory for the former Valparaiso Crusader.
Despite it being unfamiliar to him, Howard immediately took the reigns of that veteran leadership role. He was determined to help the younger players on the team. For example, Howard has a great quick first step to the basket that he’s been using to either feed it to new Mad Ant forward Luke Harangody for a score around the basket or finding the likes of Darryl Partin, Tony Mitchell or Sadiel Rojas around the perimeter. Since becoming the starting point guard, his assist totals have skyrocketed to an astounding 8.6 assists per game. That is outstanding when you take a look at the fact that Howard has made his career on his ability to get to the basket.
I believe Rojas said it best in a recent interview with me when he stated that “Ron’s ability to almost score or get fouled at will keeps pressure on the defense at all times even more so now that he has the ball in hands probably 80 percent of the possessions. This makes it easy for players like me to just spot up and wait for the ball because Ron Howard will usually draw at least two defenders.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Mad Ants have won six straight games since Howard has become the starting PG on this team. Like Rojas says, Howard is the type of player that can draw two defenders simply because of his skill, and the fact that it seems like he’s always standing at the free throw line. Howard is currently shooting 85.4 percent from the charity stripe after making 105 of his 123 attempts (DJ Kennedy is 2nd with 87 made free throws.)
Simply put, Howard is that total package both on and off the court. From leading the offensive and defensive charge on the court or being a great husband, teammate and father off of the court. Howard has made that transition from SG to PG that is difficult in the middle of the season, especially after the trade of a long-time teammate. He’s showing his worth as the leader of the hottest team in the D-League and is just an all-around talent on the court when you look at his stats (20.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.8 APG (8.6 since becoming a PG), 1.5 SPG and a great 19.19 player efficiency rating.)
This man deserves a chance in the NBA whether it’s a full guaranteed contract or a 10-day contract. He has remained dedicated to the mission, returning to the D-League and refusing to make more money on a guaranteed contract in Europe. Teammate Sadiel Rojas wants Howard to receive the call as well. He made this plea, “It’s about time they give my brother, my leader Ron Howard aka Mr. Mad Ant a chance to show his worth in NBA.” And I couldn’t have said it any better myself.