CHARLOTTE — I sat down with Syracuse guard Frank Howard during ACC Media Day to talk about his recovery from a foot injury, the experience of the team returning, and his thoughts on Buddy playing for his father. Here’s what he had to say:
The Juice Online: Talk about the mental recovery from an injury like this. Obviously that has to be hard and test your patience.
Frank Howard: It’s definitely frustrating for me, especially because I had a great summer. It’s the best I’ve felt in my career from day one as a little kid. It’s a little frustrating that I had to deal with this. It’s a sit back injury. It’s not one that you attack or try to rehab aggressively. Just kind of letting it heal. I’ve been playing video games. Watching guys in practice. Talking with them. Trying to do as much as possible with my body. As far as the mental aspect, we’ve had a sports psychologist for the team. He’s there every practice. He’s always been in the background. I’ve never spoke to him or had contact with him. I’ve been talking to him ever since I’ve got hurt. Just working on mental exercises to keep my mind sharp, to keep the rhythm. There’s a lot of stuff incorporating mental exercises, breathing exercises, watching film a certain way, watching certain plays. Just all mental exercises. When I’m shooting in the gym, I feel just as good. I’ve had injuries before where you touch a ball, and you’re like, ‘Wow, I haven’t touched a ball in a long time.’ But I haven’t felt that at all.
TJO: Is this sports psychologist a part of the athletic department?
FH: To be honest, he’s just been around the program for years. He just loves the team. He has a special ability to help. We call him ‘Doc.’ I’ve been doing a lot more reading. Studying Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, that type of, you know, those mental aspects of the game. I feel comfortable and confident. I’ve had injures where I felt a little worried how I’d come back, but I should be pretty good.
TJO: Assuming you step into your role as a senior leader with Tyus in the backcourt, what have you seen in the preseason with all five starters returning?
FH: We’re very excited. I think everything happens for a reason. Me not being out there to control the practice, or control tempo, being a senior guard, that makes other young guys step up in practice. Jalen ended up getting hurt too. But he the extra reps for him were great. Him having to work through his mistakes in practice or the forwards having to work on their ball handling a little more in practice is all benefiting everyone. I’ve been around the guys all summer, so it’s not like we’re uncomfortable playing with each other. We still have that chemistry that we built and we’re just all excited. We’re excited but we’re patient. We’re still staying down. We’re still worrying about our group, our circle. Not looking too far down the line. Right now we’re looking at the next practice, next exhibition game. We’re taking baby steps right now.
TJO: Coach has such a great career. But this is a first for him. He’s coaching a son. What is that aspect like?
FH: Buddy, he’s been around for years. Even in high school, we would have 6 a.m. workouts. He would be there. He’d have to go to school after. Buddy’s always been a face we’re familiar with. Everyone knows Coach. He doesn’t get any special treatment. It’s not like he’s getting patted on the back. He does something wrong, it’s the same as everyone else. Buddy as a player, a guy off the court, that’s what he wants. He’s a very mature kids. That fifth year of high school really escalated his game. Even from a year’s time, he’s a different player. He’s prepared mentally everyday. There’s stuff that I’ve even learned from him. Consistency of your mental preparation. He does it every day. He works hard. The only difference is that we have a lot more Gatorade. We eat a lot better after practice now. But other than that, it’s nothing crazy.