CHARLESTON, S.C. – Jimmie Howell was part of the infancy days of Division I athletics at Baptist College at Charleston. Now, following a decorated high school coaching career that includes 596 wins and two state championships, the 1977 graduate and former Buccaneer point guard will be part of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Howell was enshrined along with 13 others Wednesday in New Castle, Indiana.
Howell, who departed Baptist as the school's all-time leader in assists, returned to the basketball-loving Hoosier state after graduation and is humbled to earn its highest hoops honor.
"Well, it's something that every kid that plays basketball in Indiana dreams of," said Howell, who just completed his 14th year as head boys' basketball coach and athletic director at his alma mater, Lapel High School. "I was stunned a little bit because not often do they put you in while you're still coaching. It was kind of an unusual thing and to tell you the truth, right after I heard about it, I teared up and cried for a little because it was just something that a lot of people never get the opportunity to experience."
Despite an unusual first practice, Howell fondly recalls his days in Charleston. Calvyn Bailey, an assistant to Baptist head coach Billy Henry, recruited Howell and several others from Indiana for the 1973-74 season. October 15, 1973 did not quite go as planned, though, for Howell and teammate Warren Peper (BC '74), now a media relations director at CSU.
"My first year there, first practice, I broke my jaw at 6 o'clock in the morning," Howell recalled. "Warren Peper, he and I collided – he cracked a couple of ribs and I broke my jaw. I think back then I was in the hospital for two weeks but after that, there were a lot of good times," Howell chuckled.
Although he played just three seasons (1974-77), Howell still ranks sixth in program history in assists and 19th in field goals made. Baptist played its final season at the NAIA level in 1974-75, meaning Howell was part of the program's first venture into NCAA Division I. While wins were not plentiful, Howell remains grateful for the opportunity to compete at collegiate basketball's highest level.
"We really got thrown to the wolves because we got beat bad in a lot of games," Howell joked. "But it was great – it really was great. I loved the school and we got to play against some really good players – Cornbread Maxwell from UNC Charlotte and Tree Rollins at Clemson just to name a couple. We traveled to Texas, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and a lot of different places which gave me a chance to see some of the country that I wouldn't have otherwise."
Since graduating, Howell has periodically returned to the Lowcountry but mostly keeps an eye on CSU and the Bucs' basketball program from his home state. He's been rather busy, accumulating nearly 600 victories and a .683 winning percentage across 36 seasons at Lapel, Brownsburg, Muncie Southside and Mt. Vernon.
Howell said he and his wife, Angie, a former admissions counselor at Baptist, are planning a trip to Charleston in the near future. He'll head south as an Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer.