Less than 30 minutes after Howard's three-year run as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament champion ended with a semifinal loss to Florida A&M this past March, Howard Coach Sanya Tyler seemed to be looking forward to this season.
"Don't worry," she said with a grin. "We'll be back next year."
Tyler's prediction looks accurate, although an internal investigation into possible NCAA rules violations by the program dims some promising stats: Nine of Howard's top 10 players, including its top five scorers, return from a team that won 10 of its last 14 regular season games despite never seeming to click offensively.
The Bison had numerous problems at point guard last season, and Tyler became so exasperated at one point that she used four players at the position during a game. But Tyler is optimistic Chanell Washington will fill that spot and will boost scorers Regan Carter, Yetta Enobakhare and Courtney Kirk in the effort to reclaim their usual top place in the MEAC.
"We will be disappointed if we don't at least equal the success of last year," Tyler said. "We've been in 13 of the last 17 MEAC championship games, and we have a history that's filled with winning."
The biggest potential problem is youth. Last season, Tyler clashed at times with some of the younger players who at times did not follow her plans. For example, Kirk may be the team's most talented player, but Tyler often benched her and once held her out of most of the second half of a close game after a disagreement. However, Tyler said the younger players have fallen into line this preseason.
Meanwhile, for all the concern about youth, the Bison will need high-level play from one of their three seniors -- the multitalented Carter, who can play guard or forward. Howard's late season run coincided with her return from an injury that sidelined her for the first part of the season.
Last season: 16-12, 12-6 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Coach: Sanya Tyler (21st season, 279-256).
Top returning players: F-G Regan Carter, 5-10, Sr. (12.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg), C Yetta Enobakhare, 6-4, Soph. (11.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg, .511 FG pct., MEAC all-rookie team), F Courtney Kirk, 6-1, Soph. (10.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, MEAC all-rookie team), G Chanell Washington, 5-7, Jr. (9.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.3 apg), Mona Gail Baker, 6-2, Jr. (8.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg).
Key departures: G Kim Ford (4.7 ppg, third in MEAC at 3.7 apg).
New faces: C Laketia Berry, 6-4, Fr. , G Asia Petty, 5-8, Fr.
22 at George Washington, 7
26 vs. Oregon*, TBA
27 vs. Virginia Tech or Southern Utah*, TBA
1 at Towson, 7
4 vs. Louisiana Monroe**, 1
5 vs. Brown or High Pt.**, TBA
8 at Maryland, 7
18 at William & Mary, 2
29 at James Madison, 7:30
5 at Coppin State, 6
8 North Carolina A&T, 6
10 South Carolina State, 6
12 UMES, 6
15 at Hampton, 2
17 at Norfolk State, 6
22 Bethune Cookman, 6
24 Florida A&M, 6
31 at UMES, 5:30
5 Coppin State, 2
7 Morgan State, 6
9 at Delaware State, 7
12 at N.C. A&T, 5:30
14 S.C. State, 5:30
19 Hampton, 2
21 Norfolk State, 6
26 Delaware State, 6
28 at Morgan State, 5:30
6-11 MEAC tournament in Richmond, TBA
*Pepsi Shootout, Eugene, Ore.
**Brown University Classic in Providence, R.I.