A freshman has already made a name for himself this basketball season, but perhaps Perry's Markus Howard isn't just another freshman.
The younger brother of senior Jordan Howard - a top player in his own right- the siblings helped carry Perry to a championship win in Paradise Valley's annual tournament last weekend.
The Pumas beat Desert Ridge, 60-58 to claim the crown, while Dobson took third place with a two-point win over Glendale Deer Valley.
In the four tournament wins to begin the 2013-2014 season - vs. Sandra Day O'Connor, McClintock, Dobson and Desert Ridge - Markus averaged 23.8 points per game and shot 54 percent from the floor (including 40 in the semifinals over the Mustangs).
Jordan, a top scorer in the East Valley as a junior, is the point guard this year under coach Joe Babinski, but his willingness to defer some of those shots and points to his younger brother is what the Pumas believe will be a longer-term boon to the team's success.
It's also the best chance for the 5-foot-11 Howard to play at the next level.
"We had a long talk. He understood that," Babinski said. "They’re smart, bright kids. Jordan knows (point guard) is his meal ticket to college."
Jordan is scoring (15.8 points per game), and the Pumas got solid interior contributions from Geoff Vredevoogd and Brandon Bidese to win the tournament.
Add in the impending return of senior forward Jake Mortensen from a broken foot. And the defensive emphasis this season involves more floor burns, diving for loose balls and turnovers, something Babinski said needed to be instilled from last year.
Still, there was no denying who was often the best player on the floor throughout the tournament, and being a freshman means Markus Howard can only get better.
To that end, his older brother will still be the leader.
"Last year we didn’t have anyone else who could score," Babinski said. "Now (Jordan) can score and make everyone else a better player. We’ll go as far as he leads us, and all good teams at point guard."
Mesquite loses major piece
Mesquite caught a break - the wrong kind.
Senior swingman Zach Green, who averaged 17.2 points per game last season, is out until at least six weeks with a broken foot, according to Wildcats coach Dustin Cooper.
In the season opener against Corona del Sol in the Hoop Hall Tournament, Cooper said Green took a charge in the second half, but Aztecs' big man Cassius Peat fell on Green's leg and suffered a broken fibula.
Cooper is hoping Green could return in mid- to late-January for the Wildcats.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.