Coming off his performance at the Nike Peach Jam in South Carolina, recruiting analysts and college coaches had plenty of good things to say about Paul VI swingman Franklin Howard. The rising junior, who plays with Team Takeover, used his length to clamp down opponents defensively, grab rebounds and get to the basket with strong moves.
But in the days following the July event, there was one bit of news Howard had trouble shaking. An MRI revealed that he had ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Howard will have surgery to repair the injury on Friday and is expected to be sidelined for 4-5 months, meaning he will miss much of his highly anticipated junior campaign.
“When I heard that it was ruptured, of course I didn’t like the news, but after a few hours I got over it,” Howard said in a Tuesday phone interview. “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for me, so I can’t feel sorry for myself. I’ve got to work hard in rehab and make sure I come back stronger.”
The injury happened during a July 10 contest when Howard went up for a dunk in transition. As he was landing, he fell down on an opponent’s foot, causing his left knee to bend awkwardly and the ACL to rupture. Despite the lingering pain, Howard finished the game and tried to play the next morning. But after his knee kept popping in and out of place on his first few trips up and down the floor, hindering his lateral movement, Howard went to the sideline.
“It was hurting me, but my knee didn’t really swell up or anything. That’s why we didn’t think it was torn or ruptured,” Howard said. “That first day I didn’t really feel it, but the pain got a little worse. Then after I went to the doctor about five or six days later, that’s when they told me the news.”
The injury is a big blow to Paul VI, which will now be without one of its four returning starters until at least January. Following Friday’s surgery, Howard’s left leg will be in a brace and he’ll be on crutches for about a month. Howard said he hopes to return before the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoffs in February, but he won’t rush back if he’s not feeling close to 100 percent.
The Panthers possess enough depth on their roster to address some of the void left by Howard’s absence. Junior Josh Reaves has emerged as a capable swingman after waiting in the wings last season, and incoming transfer Curt Jones, a sophomore guard, is expected to make a big impact with his shooting and slashing ability.
“Of course we’d love to have him back sometime next season, but the more important thing is that he heals, does what he needs to do in rehab and gets stronger, so we’re hoping for the best,” Paul VI Coach Glenn Farello said. “With Frank, he’s one of the best players in the country because he brings so much to the table. But nobody is going to feel sorry for us, so it’s the old next man up mentality, and I’m sure our other guys will rally around Frank.”
Howard said he’s heard from almost all of the 15-plus schools that have extended offers — a list that includes Maryland, Georgetown, Florida, Ohio State, Virginia and Virginia Tech — and that none of the programs have said they will stop recruiting him.
The 6-foot-4 wing averaged 11.5 points for the Panthers last season, displaying a solid mid-range game along with the ability to score in bunches.
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