Sunday, 7 December 2014

Heart of the Huskies

Huskies point guard Kabree Howard.
            Kabree Howard might be one of the greatest assets the University of Saskatchewan Huskies athletic program has ever had.
            The fifth-year starting point guard for the Huskies women’s basketball team does not hold an abundance of school records, a big list of 30 or even 20-point games, but no has ever made wearing that green, white and black jersey look so good.
            She goes beyond having all the intangibles. The Regina product is seemingly at every community event the Huskies have. If she misses an event, you first think she is at home battling an illness.
            On her team, Howard is always the upbeat and positive influence. When the Huskies women’s basketball team isn’t in action but still in Saskatoon, the 22-year-old is often found cheering on every other Huskies athletics team. It seems she makes a point to get out and see as many of the squads that are part of the athletic program as possible, and two to three of her hoops teammates are usually in tow.
            Be it basketball court, classroom or any other location, the atmosphere automatically goes up and becomes more positive when Howard is there.
            When the Planet S Magazine had its best of Saskatoon poll, Howard, not surprisingly, was voted best Huskie.
            You can’t put a dollar figure on everything she brings to the program. Those involved with Huskies Athletics have to be feeling sad that her eligibility is nearing an end. The longest she can be with the Huskies is March 15 in the New Year, which assumes the team can qualify to play on the final day of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s basketball championship tournament at Laval University.
Huskies point guard Kabree Howard drives past a defender.
            I first met Howard on visits back to Saskatoon in the summer of 2012, when I still lived in Medicine Hat. I would go for a workout at the gym at the University of Saskatchewan, and she usually worked the front desk.
            Early on, I was struck by how friendly Howard was. It also seemed she knew everybody that came for a workout, especially the members of the Huskies teams.
Judging by her physical conditioning, I assumed she was a member of one of the Huskies teams. My first guess was she competed in track and field, because she only stood 5-foot-5. As I wasn’t a resident of Saskatoon, I really didn’t know who she was.
            We got talking basketball one day, and to my surprise, I learned she was on the women’s basketball team.
            My first reaction, which looking back was a bad one, was, “You’re on the women’s basketball team! Really?”
            I happened to then walk in the main gym and a big action shot poster of her adorned one of the walls and is still there.
            My next reaction was, “Oh my God! She is their star!”
            I also discovered she grew up in Regina, and knew all about the 2000-01 University of Regina Cougars women’s basketball team that won CIS national championship that season. I worked closely with that team, and that championship wrapped up my time as a resident of the Saskatchewan capital.
            I know all of those players very well, and a few of them coached Howard at various stages of her basketball life. As time went on, it seemed to me Howard contained a combination off all the positive characteristics those Cougars players shared.
Huskies point guard Kabree Howard assists on a scoring play.
            On various other visits to Saskatoon and since I moved there in summer, I have run into various coaches and trainers that dealt with Howard. They all say she is a superstar and agree she was the athlete they all most enjoyed dealing with.
            I never asked her why she decided to join the Huskies. I know how good Huskies women’s basketball head coach Lisa Thomaidis is at her job, and I always assumed that was a big reason for the move. The fact the Huskies have Alison Fairbrother and Jacqueline Lavallee as two long time and outstanding assistant coaches with the program also helps with attracting players.
            The big thing for the Huskies is Howard did come to the Bridge City, and the University of Saskatchewan athletic program has benefited from it. Everyone with the Huskies should cherish the last moments she will be with the program as a player.

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