Cutting the net after winning a national championship is starting to become a familiar feeling for Keshaun Howard. However, those strong feelings of joy and admiration for the game he loves, were once filled with pain and sorrow.
Born and raised in Brooklyn in the Louis H Pink Houses projects, Howard’s upbringing was filled with hardship and violence from the surrounding neighborhood. Despite his parents’ efforts, Howard became entangled in gang violence from the age of 12.
“People used to pull guns and knives out on me for just going to the school. Most of my friends failed out of school because they were too scared to go because of gang violence. I felt like I had to protect myself every day,” Howard said.
Looking for a positive outlet for her son, Ann Howard introduced Howard to the Police Academy League where he truly fell in love with the game of basketball.
He was always playing outside. Football, tag, anything to be out of the house really. Basketball was just different! Once he touched a basketball everything just stopped, she said.
When Howard entered Brooklyn Collegiate High school, Howard desperately wanted to play basketball. However, trying to stay safe was also a major priority, which Howard feel he couldn’t achieve due to late-night practices and multiple attempts on his life and freedom.
“Freshman and sophomore year, I was fighting a gang indictment. Basketball wasn’t my focus at all. The lowest offer the judge gave me was five years. That’s when I knew something had to change,” Howard said.
High school coach Malcolm Connor, played a pivotal role in Howards developments as a person and player. He attributes Howards extreme work ethic for the change in Howard’s mindset and separation from the street life
“I remember when he first started working out with the team. He was just a skinny kid who didn’t have much confidence. He didn’t make the team, but he assured me that he would work harder that summer.” Connor said.
Going into his junior year Howard shifted his focus completely towards basketball and away from the streets. He walked to his neighborhood park every morning where he completed a series of rigorous workouts. His workouts consisted of shoot around in the morning, strength training in the afternoon, and cardio in the evening.
“Going into junior year Keshaun was a different kid. He came back stronger and dunking everything. That’s when I knew his work ethic was like no other because he did exactly what he said he would do,” Connor said.
Once given a starting position on his high school team, Howard was a big part of the team’s success. He was the team’s leading scorer a catalyst for a major playoff push his senior year.
After a breakout senior year, Howard received an offer to attend Morrisville State University on a basketball scholarship.
“I’m the first person in my family to even go to college, much less receive a scholarship. It really provides some perspective to how lucky I am to have an opportunity like that,” Howard said.
During his freshman year at Morrisville State, Howard hurt his wrist making him unable to play. He got into an altercation in his neighborhood where a knife was pulled on him causing a scuffle.
“I was lucky I was a redshirt, so I was able to play somewhere else without losing eligibility. I already wasn’t getting much minutes, so the injury basically made me a liability.” He said
Following a short stint at Jamestown Community College, Howard seems to have found a home at Herkimer Community College. They recently won the NJCAA Division three Championship and the a NJCAA National Championship in Minnesota. He averaged a little over 10 points and shot over 40 percent from the field.
Now Howard hopes to continue his college basketball career, while also setting the foundation for the next generation. In the same park where he diligently worked to get better, he started the “Pain Will Show” summer basketball tournament.
“I just want to be an inspiration to the kids younger than me. That’s why I created this tournament, in order to give kids a positive way to express their pain through basketball.” Howard said.