With her 11th point of the game, Sunday against Ohio State, senior forward Marsha Howard became the 26th Badger to reach 1,000 career points.
Howard has been a member of the Badger squad for four years now, and as her time at Wisconsin draws near she is going out with some momentous accolades.
After sitting much of her freshman year due to injury and only playing in 15 games, the 1000-point club was not on Howard’s radar early in her career.
“I definitely did not think about it freshman year,” said Howard, “But once I entered my junior year and I watched the ones before me who had made it, and then just knowing I had that potential. Then once I started senior year, checking in on those numbers and being like, oh yeah, I could do that.”
Howard has lead the team offensively this season, averaging 14.3 points and 8.8 boards a game. Following close behind her is freshman forward Imani Lewis, who averages 12.3 points. The duo has led the team together in most games this season and some similarities can be drawn between their relationship Howard’s with Cayla McMorris, former Wisconsin guard who graduated last year.
“I mean both last year and this year I definitely found a duo to work with me,” Howard said. “With Cayla, it was different because she was more so on the wing, when I found her she was able to knock down big jump shots that we needed. And with Imani, it’s just us working the high-low tandem and her knocking down shots, and getting and-ones. Those two duos are something that I will always cherish and I am glad I was able to be one of those people who had the opportunity to have that connection with someone on the floor.”
When Howard competes on the floor, she seems to never back down from a challenge. Howard describes herself as a hardworking, aggressive and diligent basketball player, but one who is always focused and ready to play. That mentality was evident when she was asked to recall her 1000th point.
“I actually didn’t even know when I hit it. My teammates were in the locker room like, ‘you made your 1000th point on an and-one, you got the and-one and a free throw!’ And I was like ‘oh my gosh thank you guys,” Howard said. “But, I knew going into that game that I only had 11 more points to get, so I was hoping that I would get it in the game, but still hoping that maybe I would have gotten it back in Wisconsin for that to be a celebration, but I’m still glad that I did receive it.”
Even when she knew she only needed 11 points heading into the Ohio State game, Howard kept her mind on playing the game at hand in order to be there for her teammates and be a team leader, a philosophy she inherited her freshman year.
“Now being a senior, I am learning new roles and upping my leadership. I was told my freshman year that it is never too early to be a leader. So, I’m continuing to build on that, always being vocal, outspoken, encouraging and hardworking,” said Howard.
Howard began her basketball career long before she ever thought about attending the University of Wisconsin, or even college in general. Though introduced to the sport in the third grade, Howard takes pride in the fact that she was multi-sport athlete in high school since sports were an avenue that brought her family together.
“I didn’t completely choose basketball until I would say my sophomore year of high school,” Howard said, “but I have always had a love for the game. I am very multi-sport talented, as I also did cheerleading, I was in the band and I also ran track. I was just trying to weigh out a lot of different options, and just being a kid and wanting to have fun and be active in a lot of different things. Me and both my siblings, both brothers, played multiple sports and my mom also was a basketball star in her days. My entire family outside of my immediate also runs around sports so it is very family oriented.”
The importance of family remained a huge factor for Marsha when deciding where to take her college basketball career, and she recounts the first time she visited Madison’s campus.
“When I came up to Wisconsin, one there was a female coach and she was African American, something that you don’t see a lot, so just being able to be a part of that was just great. I loved the family atmosphere, everyone that I met on campus when I came, the scenery, and with it being not too far from home and family being able to travel, and they are here almost every game, so just having that because I am big on family. So, with them being able to come up and just feeling like I was away from home where I could be on my own, but still close enough where I could be home if needed,” Howard said.
Not only does Howard talk about how she cherishes her relationships with her family, but she also extends that love to her teammates who have become some of her best friends.
“We are always together,” she said. “I mean we have a two day off this upcoming Thursday and Friday and we are just trying to plan how we could do some team bonding together. Whenever we are together, whatever we may be doing, its always a blast.”
Before she hangs up her jersey for the last time however, there are just a few more things she would like to accomplish as a team before she graduates, including finishing 500 or above and qualifying for the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. Howard will graduate in May with a degree in sociology, and though she hopes to work with kids one day, she isn’t sure her basketball career is finished quite yet.
“I can’t know anything about relation to basketball until the season is over,” Howard stated, “but I’m hoping and praying to be able to go and play overseas. If not, I will be getting my degree in May and from there hoping to work with kids and potentially, it’s up in the air, maybe being a coach.”
As Howard reflects on her remaining days as a Badger, she is grateful for all the wonderful opportunities she was able to experience with her teammates, coaches and faculty at the school.
“I will definitely miss my sisters and all the bonds that I have created. I will miss the fun times we have had with our coaching staff, and their personality’s all intertwined, it is just hilarious. I will miss the school, every staff member I have ever gotten to work with and every player I ever got to meet and call a friend here at Wisconsin,” Howard said.
The Badgers have just a few more games remaining before the Big Ten Tournament commences, and Marsha plans to cherish the last few opportunities she has to wear that Wisconsin jersey and play alongside some of her best friends.