Howell has been exactly that through the team’s first six games of the season. The senior lead’s the team in field goal average and rebounding along with being second in points and steals. He’s done all that while being sixth in minutes played on the Wolfpack with only 23.2 minutes per game, over four minutes behind fifth place. Howell has easily been the team’s best player to begin the season while averaging 14.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals and shooting 73.9% from the field.
The problem with Howell being the Wolfpack’s best player doesn’t have anything to do with his individual play. It’s that there is too much talent on the roster surrounding Howell that he shouldn’t be the team’s best player. Unfortunately, due to key members on the team struggling, he’s been forced to step up and help keep North Carolina State’s head above water.
If it wasn’t for Howell, the Wolfpack would be 3-3 right now instead of 4-2, there’s no debating that. After being embarrassed in Puerto Rico for their first loss of the year, the Wolfpack were well on their way to being embarrassed again at home against the UNC-Ashville Bulldogs. If it wasn’t for Howell’s 23 points and 15 rebounds leading the way to an 82-80 win over the Bulldogs, the Wolfpack would be on a three game losing streak considering their most recent loss to the Michigan Wolverines.
C.J. Leslie has rebounded with two double-doubles after being ejected in the Puerto Rico finals for talking back to the officials. He still needs to find a way to stay out of foul trouble as he has 11 in the past three games. Prior to Lorenzo Brown’s 10 assist and one turnover game against Michigan, he had 26 assists and 22 turnovers on the season. Hopefully the performance has sparked Brown to return to his to 2:1 assist/turnover ratio from last season that saw him finish second in the ACC in total assists.
The Wolfpack’s two best players have shown flashes of returning to the form that had everyone thinking they’d be competing against each other for ACC player of the year. However if they can’t find a way to maintain it and the team’s best player continues to be Howell, then the Wolfpack won’t be going nearly as far as everyone once thought.