The Howery hoops factory started here in the driveway, a couple blocks south of Patty Jewett, Pikes Peak soaring over the neighbor’s chimney.
The driveway shows all the markings of a Colorado family obsessed with basketball: cracked backboard from dunk contests on a 7-foot rim; worn-down grass from trick shots over the Subaru; and over there, over by the back door, a pair of toddler footprints stamped into the concrete.
Samuel/ Josephine, Aug. 2003
Yes, one of the best prep basketball battles in the state takes place on a concrete slab where they plug in a spotlight for post-homework shootouts: Josephine, a senior, and Sam, a sophomore, averaged an identical 21.9 points per game for the St. Mary’s girls and boys, respectively, heading into Wednesday night. Identical! How wild is that?
Josephine leads Class 3A girls in scoring. Sam’s third for boys. How does this happen? We hit the driveway for a game of H-O-R-S-E.
H is for Howerys. There’s Josephine, 18; Sam, 16; Max, 14, who enters the St. Mary’s program next year as a freshman; and Luke, 11, who “is going to be the biggest one of all of us,” Sam says. No wonder St. Mary’s is always good. There’s always a Howery.
“The best thing about Sam Howery is he’s only a sophomore,” St. Mary’s boys coach Jim Masterson says. “The next-best thing is he has two younger brothers.”
Mom (Susie) was a standout high school player in Minnesota, Dad (Jim) a state champ in Janesville, Wisc. Makes sense, since the only TV channel they need is the Big Ten Network, and the bumper sticker is Wisconsin’s Bucky Badger.
“They had a ball in their hands pretty much from the get-go,” Mom says.
“All of them.”
Sam strikes first. Josephine can’t equalize his 14-foot jumper and draws an ‘H.’
“Whatever,” she says with a laugh. “Lotta game left.”
O is for Offense. It’s where Josephine and Sam excel for the Pirates girls (12-1) and boys (10-3) teams. Josephine turned heads two weeks ago when she poured in 41 points against Vanguard, a school record for boys or girls. Sam sat courtside when his sister made like Klay Thompson. He left the gym shaking his head.
“Every shot was falling for her. No one could guard her. It was super fun to watch,” he says.
Josephine swishes a free throw to take the lead on the scoreboard, ‘H’ to ‘O.’
“(I’m) still your big sister,” she reminds.
R is for Rivalry. They have one, but not in a Louisville-Kentucky kind of way. Theirs is more of an anything-you-can-do kind of way. Josephine carries straight-As. Same for Sam. She perfected her follow-through on the Fisher-Price hoop in the basement. Same for Sam. Sam marvels at the consistency of Josephine’s jumper. Josephine admires Sam’s passing ability. He leads Class 3A with 8.4 assists per game.
“Sammy Smooth,” she says. “His court awareness is unbelievable sometimes.”
Sure, they fought. Of course they fought. It’s weird if siblings don’t. Chucked basketballs after 1-on-1 games. Slammed back doors. Even now, describing his sister’s 41-point game, baby bro fires off a clean look: “You could say I taught her all those moves.”
“Oh, please,” Josephine counters.
S is for “Swish,” which Sam calls and soon clarifies: “You have to swish it from there.”
Josephine answers from 15 feet, nothing but net.
Josephine has ‘R,’ Sam’s living on the edge with ‘S.’ And she’s the one with the driver’s license every day to school. “He’s my DJ,” she says. They mostly break down about the next game.
“We’ve gotten close through basketball,” she says.
Really close: Josephine shoots 42 percent from 3, Sam’s at 43. I mean, come on.
“We both give each other pointers” Sam says. “And tease each other about stats.”
Stats. About that. Neither seems concerned about their own, though Josephine’s Pirates own two Class 3A state titles. They’re working on a third, ranked No. 1 by The Gazette. Watching Pirates coach Mike Burkett’s crew at the University of Denver is an annual March treat.
And wait till Max and Luke join the St. Mary’s party. Soon, the boys side will be thinking state.
“I think we’ll have a good shot at it the next two years,” Sam says.
The two-time champ would know.
“Definitely,” Josephine says.
E is for Every day. There’s a photo of Sam shoveling the driveway for winter free throws. They fixed the hoop quick when a Roto-Rooter truck knocked it over. Ask the neighbor dog how he feels when the spotlight comes on at night.
“You have ‘S,’” Josephine reminds Sam.
Of all the Howerys, Sam might be the happiest that Josephine is staying nearby for college ball. She’s signed with Colorado School of Mines with plans to major in Biomechanical engineering. I know, right? Kids these days. Slackers.
“I’ll be up there to watch her all the time,” Sam says.
Eventually he’ll follow her to the college level, a sure thing if he stays in the driveway. The No. 1 and 2 scorers in Class 3A — Cheyenne Mountain’s Javonte Johnson (New Mexico) and Vanguard’s Nique Clifford (CU-Boulder) — are Division I-bound. Sam’s No. 3. But today he’s No. 2, as his sister beats him in HORSE, ‘S’ to ‘E.’
She offers up the headline: “Older vet beats the rookie again.”