Howard ready to lace up for Easyway

Caption: Justin Howard after a shoot around at the BBA court in Batu Bersurat. Picture: Courtesy of Wira Pori

Yee Chun Leong

BIG man with a big game. American import Justin Howard is ready to ball out for two-time defending champions Easyway in the MK Group Cup, which will tip off on Sunday.

The 35-year-old is the third all-time leading scorer in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) with 1433 points.

He has played on four different teams in the competition joining the Bangkok Cobras (Thailand) in 2012 before having brief stints with Satria Muda (Indonesia) and Saigon Heat (Vietnam).

Howard then moved on to play in the Thailand Basketball League before signing with the Singapore Slingers where he made himself a household name leading them to the ABL finals two years in a row and he is also the franchise leading scorer with 1238 points.

In addition, the 6’11” centre averaged 18.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game to bag the ABL Defensive Player of the Year award.

The Orlando native sure knows how to pack the stats sheet but felt that there is no pressure on him playing with Easyway.

“There is no pressure really. They know what I’m capable of and I know what I’m capable of,” said Howard in an interview with BruSports News earlier today.

“I’m not going into the game thinking that I will get 50 points and 20 rebounds. I just have to go out and play the game,” he added.

Easyway enjoyed success over the past two editions of the 'Sultan's Cup' and are strong contenders yet again.

In contrast, it was disappointment for Howard and the Slingers as they suffered back-to-back losses in the ABL finals to the Dragons (Malaysia) and Eastern Long Lions (Hong Kong) respectively.

When asked on how he has taken the defeats, Howard replied: “It is tough to go through the season and make it all the way to the final especially with being with a team that you think can win it.

“It is tough to lose back-to-back but it is part of the game. You sulk on it a bit then you learn and move on to try and figure out what you did wrong so next time it won't happen again,” he added.

Howard came to the play in the region after he was invited by Joe Bryant (Kobe Bryant’s father) to play in Thailand.

Having been around here for a few years already, the American has settled in really well.

“The weather is the same since I'm from Florida. I like hot weather,” said the Easyway import.

“Obviously I’m a lot bigger in Asia and stand out more since people here are shorter.

“I also like experiencing different cultures wherever I play. I also love the food out here,” he added.

“As for Brunei, it is smaller than I thought it would be. I haven’t been out much to see the city yet too,” he concluded.

The competition will tip off on Sunday with Juramas taking on Tutong Basketball in Group B at 7pm.

Walltique Sdn Bhd and YTE Morsjaya will battle in the same group at 9pm right after the opening ceremony.

Meanwhile, Easyway will open their title defence on Monday against BBA in Group A at 7.15pm.

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