Early in season, Howard already has two WNBA awards

By: 
J. Patrick Eaken

Former Waite and Florida State basketball player Natasha Howard from the Seattle Storm averaged 21.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and one blocked shot on her way to being named the WNBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week after the Storm went 2-1.
It is already Howard’s second Western Conference Player of the Week honor for the season.
Last September, Howard picked up her second straight WNBA title, and did so emphatically in leading the Seattle Storm to a 98-82 Game 3 win over the Washington Mystics.
Howard led all players with 29 points and 14 rebounds in a dominant effort, leading the Storm to a three-game sweep and allowing the franchise to win its first WNBA title since 2010.
Howard, who is FSU’s all-time leading rebounder (1,047) and leader in double-doubles (41), finished 11-of-14 from the field, drained both of her 3-point field goals and went 5-of-6 from the free throw line. With her out on the floor, Seattle was plus-21 against the Mystics in Game 3.
The native of Toledo was a run-away winner for the WNBA’s Most Improved Player in 2018. The Seminole legend proved her worth all season, especially in the WNBA Finals when she played well in Game 1 with 19 points (8-of-9), five rebounds and two blocked shots in an 89-76 win.
In the WNBA Playoffs, Howard averaged 15.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, shot 57.3 percent from the floor, 50 percent from 3-point range, added 1.3 blocked shots and 1.0 steals per game. Washington Mystics Head Coach Mike Thibault called her the biggest difference maker in this year’s Seattle Storm squad.
"I think Natasha Howard is the biggest difference between their team last year and this year on the court," Thibault said in his post-game press conference.
Florida State head coach Sue Semrau built a tight bond with Howard in their four years together at FSU (2010-14), in addition to the previous years spent recruiting her. Howard has now gone to four consecutive WNBA Finals with the Indiana Fever (2015), Minnesota Lynx (2016 and 2017) and now the Seattle Storm (2018).
“One of my biggest joys as a coach is to watch a Seminole leave our program and do bigger things,” Semrau said. “Tasha’s gift is to give. She’s grown that gift and given everything she has to help WNBA teams get to the Finals four consecutive years and help the last two win it all.
“She built a habit of using her gifts and as a result, she has been rewarded with championship rings and outstanding accolades. She is a model of someone who is using her gifts and passion to drive her to further success.”
Howard’s playoff productivity was an upgrade from what was already an outstanding regular season, where she averaged 13.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, shot 54.7 percent from the floor and added 1.9 blocked shots and 1.2 steals per game.
As the highest WNBA draft pick in Florida State women’s basketball history at No. 5 overall, Howard has lived up to her stature. Last year, she helped form the league’s top starting five alongside Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Alysha Clark.
"The opportunity that I had with Minnesota," Howard said to ESPNW. “Playing behind great players, as well, learning behind some Olympians and bringing it over to Seattle, it helped our team a lot with my experience."
Howard was named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player as selected by the league’s 14-member Associated Press panel.
Howard, who remains Florida State’s all-time rebounds leader with 1,047, is on pace for a career year and has played a vital role in the Seattle Storm’s league-best 26-8 record. The Toledo native is averaging 13.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and is shooting 54.7 percent from the floor.
While with the Seminoles, Howard left an enormous imprint on the program. She set a program record with 41 career double-doubles and finished second all-time in scoring with 1,811 points.
As a senior, Howard produced one of the greatest single seasons in program history. She averaged 20.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 2.1 steals, and tallied a remarkable five games with 30+ points – the most by a Seminole ever. Her crowning moment was setting the single-game record for points when she recorded 40 at Syracuse on Feb. 13, 2014.
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 told The Press. “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.” (— from WNBA, Florida State press releases and file stories by Press sports editor J. Patrick Eaken)
 
 
 

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