Updated: Monday, 05 Apr 2010, 12:49 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 01 Apr 2010, 1:42 PM EDT
CONNERSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) - To learn more about Butler Bulldog star forward Matt Howard, 24-Hour News 8 visited his home in Connersville, about an hour-and-a-half drive east of Indianapolis.
There, Howard's story of hardwood glory started on concrete, with a weathered hoop above the family driveway.
"As you can tell the rim is a little oblong from falling over. But we got the ball in there somehow," recalled Matt's brother, Tim Howard. "This is where we beat on each other. Lot of fun."
Tim Howard is now a coach, and has no doubt those rough-and-tumble driveway games helped shape Matt's current success.
Their parents say the good-natured games could cause some tension at the time, though; Linda Howard laughs as she recalls her first concern. "First I looked for blood and bruises," she said.
Stan Howard smiles as he talks about the reaction from the youngest of five boys: "Matt would come in, slam the door, and go to his room. Then it would be a minute or two and one of the brothers would come in and say 'Well, What'd he tell you?' I'd say, "Nothing. Didn't tell me anything. He's mad!" They'd say, 'Well we're not going to baby him!'"
"And the more he progressed the more we had to beat on him to find a way for him not to score," said Tim.
The Howards have 10 children in all. The family describes Matt Howard (number 8 of the 10) as a typical teenage boy.
"Everybody around here remembers Matt as their paper boy," said Stan. "Launchin' hook shots on to their porches, you know!"
Matt Howard claims to be the most boring of stars.
"I’m not really that cool," he said. "You can ask anyone who knows me really well."
But if quirky can be cool, Howard has that covered. Halfway through our visit to the Howard home in Connersville, little sister Laura got a text from Matt telling her to "stop toffing."
Turns out Matt Howard has his own language.
Family members say he likes to swap around letters in common words.
"There’s a song that says 'miniskirt' and he always says 'skinnymert'," said Laura Howard. "If he said 'take a shower', he'd say 'shake a tower' instead.
The Howards say they don't remember how Hoda (Matt's family nickname) started his strange dialect, but it's caught on family-wide.
Matt's unconventional facial hair has an even wider audience.
There are at least two Facebook pages devoted to his new, tourney-time mustache. But his father jokes that he's not impressed.
"To me if you can’t see it, it ain’t whiskers," laughed Stan. "I haven't seen it yet. If you have to strain to see it, it ain't whiskers."
Mom, Linda Howard, says of her son's mustache, "If that's the worst they can find to talk about, that's pretty good. That's the thing about Butler. It's clean. It's clean."
As for the 'mop on top', the Howards say Matt only cuts his famously floppy hairdo once a year, and only lets teammate and friend Zach Hahn, wield the scissors.
Whether you call it all quirky, cool, or anything else - between the silly stories and the on-court success, the Howard family could not be prouder of child number 8 of 10 and of the other 9, who helped shape the young man Matt Howard is becoming.
Stan Howard recalled, "There was a time I remember someone in high school was quoted as saying "Don't bother him. He's a Howard, and there are lots of them. And they stick together."
Tim Howard is impressed with the time his brother takes with youngsters from his hometown, saying. "Any time he comes back, he's got a line of kids up the Spartan Bowl stairs, waiting for signatures and stuff like that."
"My family has been great," said Matt. "They like to keep me humble, and very deservingly so."