These are strange times for everything and college basketball recruiting is no exception.
When the NCAA relaxed transfer rules through the course of the 2010s, another recruiting season gradually developed. Late March and April is transfer season, where players jockey for position up and down the ranks of Division I.
This year is no exception, but there’s a twist – players can’t visit campuses and coaches can’t visit players. Phone calls are the only thing permitted in the current dead period that is in effect for all college sports.
That puts a damper on the usual song and dance of recruiting – campus visits and the like – and it puts an emphasis on past relationships that exist between sought-out player and coach seeking out a good fit.
That dynamic came true in the case of Indiana State. Towson transfer Tobias Howard Jr. had been recruited by ISU assistant coach Terry Parker in his past.
They maintained a relationship, and with ISU seeking a point guard for its 2020-21 team, they connected. Howard made a verbal commitment to transfer to ISU on Sunday.
“I’ve known T.P. [Parker] for a long time. He recruited me out of high school. I just trust T.P. and the relationship we have,” said Howard, who said he saw pictures of the campus and watched videos of what ISU was about.
Parker’s presence helped Howard make his decision, but there was more to connecting with the Sycamores then just that.
“Doing my research, I saw that the fan support and the program having a winning coach is an atmosphere I like. I like playing in front of fans who appreciate basketball,” said Howard, who had New Mexico, Ole Miss and several others considering him for their rosters.
“I also researched coach [Greg] Lansing, his playing style, and how he lets players play with freedom and confidence. I just really like the system,” Howard added.
Howard, 6-foot-2, is a graduate transfer, meaning he will be eligible in 2020-21, and he’s well-traveled.
The Lithonia, Ga. native spent started his high school career at North Gwinnett and then played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. for his senior season. Howard then spent an additional year of prep school at DME Academy in Daytona Beach, Fla. before he began his Division I career at Western Kentucky.
Howard played one season at WKU in 2017, but he was originally recruited by departed WKU coach Ray Harper, and left after playing for new WKU coach Rick Stansbury. Howard spent a year playing JUCO at Chipola College before he landed at Towson – a Baltimore-area school that plays in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Howard had one productive year for the Tigers as he averaged 10.2 points, 2.5 assists and shot 34.5 percent from 3-point range. He scored a career-high 26 in a CAA game against Drexel.
He was expected to be a big contributor for the Tigers in 2020, but Howard and the Towson coaching staff disagreed about his role, according to Howard, and he never played a game.
“My minutes were going to go down because they wanted me to play more of the one and the two because I was shooting so good,” Howard explained.
“I knew me-wise, professionally on what I wanted to do afterwards, I wanted to master and work on my point guard position. I thought it would be a better situation for me to sit out, because I knew what I wanted to do with my senior year and I knew what I wanted to do afterwards,” Howard continued.
That point guard role is what Howard hopes to bring to the Sycamores. With Jordan Barnes graduating, ISU has Cam Bacote, redshirt freshman Jared Hankins and true freshman Julian Larry, but experience is thin outside of Bacote.
“They said I have a chance to be a scorer and help create for others. I want to play with other guys and the pieces they have. I can play with the talent. I love the talent,” Howard said.
Howard was asked to give a self-scouting report of his game.
“I can create, control the tempo and pace and get everyone organized. I’m also a lethal shooter, a knockdown shooter. I’m very efficient. I can get to the line. I’m a three-level player, but I enjoy getting my teammates involved and being a point guard,” Howard explained.
Howard has played at Hulman Center before. He played 31 minutes and had five assists in WKU’s 77-59 win over ISU on Dec. 11, 2016 when he was a freshman.
Playing games in the Midwest is something Howard looks forward to. Though he’s lived in the Atlanta area his whole life, much of his extended family lives in central Illinois.
Per NCAA rules, Lansing is not allowed to comment until Howard signs his Letter Of Intent. ISU has one scholarship open and has targeted it for use on a post player.