Howard ‘at home’ at WKU after transfer from Louisville

Western Forward Janae Howard goes in for a lay up as Lindsey Wilson Forward Ashley Rainey tries to defend in the second half of the game on Tuesday Nov. 2 in Diddle Arena. Western went on to win the game 72-52.

Cole Claybourn

It’s strange to think that someone who appeared in 33 games for a team that went to a national championship game would ever enter a game nervous.

Before Tuesday night’s exhibition game against Lindsey Wilson, sophomore forward Janae Howard said that’s exactly how she felt.

But when Howard finally stepped on the Diddle Arena floor in front of fans for the first time since her freshman year at Louisville, she said she felt at home.

“I like where I’m at,” said Howard, who sat out last season after transferring. “I was kind of like, ‘Oh, man,’ when I saw the fans. But it was also a sigh of relief that it was finally here.”

Howard said even though she was back in the familiar territory of a basketball court, it took her a while to get readjusted to the actual game atmosphere.

“We practice like we play, but I still have to get used to the crowd and stuff after taking a year off,” she said.

Howard averaged 3.3 points and 1.4 rebounds and played in five NCAA tournament games as a freshman at Louisville. She also led the team in 3-point shooting percentage at 43.5 percent.

With the graduation of 3-point specialist Kenzie Rich last season, Cowles said Howard’s transfer came at the right time.

“We lost Kenzie’s shooting ability, but we added a dimension on the perimeter that we needed in Janae,” she said. “But she also brings something different with her height and athleticism.

“We can use her in a lot of different ways with her ability to shoot and her height and ability to go off a screen and post up. Plus she rebounds well. She just presents a difficult matchup situation.”

Cowles was already familiar with Howard before she arrived at WKU, having recruited Howard out of high school.

Howard said that knowing Cowles and the other coaches before the transfer made the decision easier, and she said the move simply felt “right.”

“I had a great freshman season at Louisville, but I’m excited to be a part of Lady Topper basketball,” she said.

Cowles wasn’t the only person impressed by Howard.

Senior guard Hope Brown played with and against Howard in high school and summer leagues.

“I know how good she is and how much better she can make us, so I’m very excited, and I know she is too,” Brown said.

Howard scored 10 points in her WKU debut on Tuesday, but she was just 2-for-9 from beyond the arc. The performance left Howard unhappy, but she wasn’t alarmed.

Howard attributed most of her struggles to nerves, saying the shots will start to fall once she feels more comfortable.

Cowles said every one of Howard’s shots were “good shots,” and she was just feeling early season jitters.

“It’s hard for players to get back in game mode after such a long break,” she said. “She’s coming around and working hard, and it’s going to fall in place. We’re glad she’s got WKU on the front of her jersey now.”