Josh Howard, a junior at Providence Day, gets up and down the basketball court at a pace few can match.
This past season, the 6-foot-6 Howard, a forward for the Chargers, averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. He hopes to play collegiately, and maybe even beyond.
But on Saturday, Howard’s production was limited. Not many balls in the basket or full-court breakaways, a serious reduction in awe-inspiring dunks.
Rest easy – it was the rules by which he was forced to abide, and not a downtick in his game, that hampered Howard.
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Howard and other prep stars from across the state traveled to Proehlific Park in Greensboro for the annual North Carolina Top 80 camp. The all-day event included drills where players went head-to-head with some of the best talent around.
The afternoon session involved scrimmages, but there were restrictions. A player couldn’t dribble more than three times before passing, and a minimum of two passes were required before shooting.
As a result, coast-to-coast breakaways suffered.
“I learned I need to pass more,” Howard said. “Normally, it’s just shoot and get up and down the court.”
Learning the importance of all aspects of the game is one of the main reasons behind the Top 80 camp, said Rick Lewis, its director.
“We’re trying to teach structure, trying to simulate the way it is in the Division I ranks,” he said.
A number of Charlotte-area players took to heart what Lewis was offering.
“I learned that basketball is more than shooting a ball and playing around,” said Davion Mintz, a junior at North Mecklenburg.
His teammate, Jalen McManus, agreed.
“You learn to be more efficient with your dribbles,” he said of the three-bounce restriction. “And playing with people who are as good as you teaches you a lot.”
Attendance at the Top 80 camp was restricted to underclassmen and by invitation only. This marked the first year that Lewis, founder and managing editor of Phenom Hoop Report, led the event. It was previously directed by Dave Telep, who left for a job with the San Antonio Spurs.
Sixteen high school coaches helped Lewis. A handful of scouts were on hand, but they were bashful about discussing their work with the media.
Saturday marked the second year that Andrew Slater of 247Sports.com attended the camp. He does so to assess talent.
“Almost all of these guys are going to play at the next level,” he said. “There are some very good athletes here.”