Waite, Florida State legend will open season on ESPN

Florida State and Morrison R. Waite women’s basketball fans will have plenty of opportunities to watch Seminole legend Natasha Howard on national television this season.
With the sports world slowly returning under new norms due to COVID-19, it will be Howard’s Seattle Storm opening up the WNBA national telecast schedule when it faces the New York Liberty on the road on Saturday, July 25, at noon on ESPN. The matchup will include the debut of 2020 No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu from the Liberty.
Overall, the 6-foot-3 Howard and the Seattle Storm will have 13 nationally televised games in the re-structured WNBA season, with the regular season running from July 25 to Sept. 12. The combination of networks include ESPN, ESPN2, ABC and CBS Sports Network. Every WNBA game this season will be played within a bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
During the opening weekend, when all 12 teams will be in action, all aspects of the game and player outfitting will be designed to affirm Black Lives Matter and honor victims of police brutality and racial violence.
“As we build on the momentum for women’s sports and the WNBA from last season, we’re incredibly grateful to our broadcast partners who have shown a continued commitment to bringing the WNBA to fans across the country on their biggest platforms,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.
“This 2020 WNBA season will truly be one unlike any other, and we’re looking forward to using our collective platform to highlight the tremendous athletes in the WNBA as well as their advocacy for social change.”
WNBA Tip-Off 2020 presented by AT&T also will highlight the league’s new social justice platform, The WNBA Justice Movement, with a special focus on the Black Lives Matter movement. During the national triple-header telecasts on July 25-26, team uniforms will display Breonna Taylor’s name as WNBA players raise awareness and seek justice for the women and girls who have been the forgotten victims of police brutality and racial violence.
Players will individually have the option to continue to wear the placard with Breonna Taylor’s name for subsequent games. Additionally, throughout the season, players will wear warm-up shirts that display “Black Lives Matter” on the front and “Say Her Name” on the back. “Black Lives Matter” will also be prominently displayed on courts during games.
Howard is a two-time WNBA Champion who has elevated herself to being one of the league’s top players. She was named the 2019 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and was also an All-WNBA First Team player in the same season with the Storm. In 2018, she was the league’s most improved player. She will be entering her seventh season in the WNBA.
Howard came to Florida State in 2010 as the highest-ranked recruit in program history, rating No. 2 overall in the 2010 signing class out of Waite High School. She lived up to her billing, becoming a three-time All-ACC Team member as well as an ACC All-Freshman Team performer in the 2010-11 season.
The two-time All-American posted one of the finest individual single seasons ever recorded by a Seminole. As a senior in 2013-14, Howard averaged 20.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 2.1 steals. In ACC play, she remarkably produced the league’s highest single-game totals in four categories: points (40 vs. Syracuse), field goals made (14 vs. Syracuse, 14 vs. Duke, 14 vs. Virginia, 14 vs. Miami), rebounds (22 vs. Duke) and free throws made (12 vs. Syracuse, 12 vs. Georgia Tech).
In that special senior season, Howard totaled a remarkable five 30-point games, including a school-record 40 points at Syracuse on Feb. 13, 2014.
Howard was the highest WNBA Draft Pick in FSU history, being selected fifth overall by the Indiana Fever in 2014. She was one of 12 Seminoles selected in the WNBA Draft, which includes four picks over the previous four years.
        Florida State coach Sue Samrau and one of her assistants, Ohio native Brooke Wycoff, says seeing Howard continue to play at the next level is rewarding for her program and staff, and for Howard.
        “She is one of the most fun kids I’ve ever coached and I’m excited to see the role that she continues to step into as she gets older and more experienced in the league,” Samrau said.
        “I miss her every day. She was a player who gave you everything she had every day. She was a consummate teammate, somebody who would do all the little things and somebody who is in her own right a superstar, but she never acted like it. She’s thrilled and she loves it over there. She’s not difficult to please. She is one of those players who appreciate everything she gets and makes the best of every situation.”
        Wycoff added, “We were so proud of her, and that’s such a neat experience for her to be on a team that goes that far, and then to be able to get in and make an impact. We know it’s tough to do and she seized the moment and really made the most of it, so we were really proud of her for doing that.”
        Her senior year at Waite, Howard led her team to a Division I state runner-up finish — something she wouldn’t take back for anything, except for a state championship, maybe.
“My experience at Waite and FSU was amazing. I wouldn't change anything,” Howard said. “Both schools contributed everything to help me get where I needed to go on the next level in my life. Where I am at now is because of them.”

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