Interest in basketball takes student to Thailand
VIDEO: Preston Howell
VIDEO: Practicing basketball
VIDEO: Send off pep rally
Interest in basketball results in South Point student playing in Thailand
Preston Howell does not let his physical condition get in the way of achieving his goals.
The South Point High School senior recently returned from playing in the Wheelchair Basketball World Championships in Thailand where he helped lead the United States U23 team to a sixth place overall finish against the top teams in the world.
“It was a wonderful experience and privilege to represent the best country in the world,” said Howell, who played in five contests, including one game where he scored 13 points. “There was some great competition, and we had plenty of time to see tourist attractions such as the floating markets and beaches.”
However, what was more meaningful to Howell was the send off he received from his school. Prior to him leaving for Thailand, students and staff lined the sidewalk to cheer him on.
“I was ecstatic to see everyone,” Howell smiled. “It caught me by surprise, but it meant the world to me to have my fellow classmates and teachers rooting for me.”
Howell points out that he was not too sure of wheelchair basketball when he was introduced to the sport at the age of seven.
“A friend’s mother took me to watch the women’s Team USA team train in the Charlotte area,” said Howell, who currently plays locally for the Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets. “I was scared to death, but I went to a practice a month later and fell in love with the sport.”
Howell was born with skeletal dysplasia, a rare genetic disorder that causes abnormal developments of bones, joints, and cartilage.
“I’ve had numerous leg and jaw surgeries,” he said. “I also have a rod in my back, right femur, and left tibia, in addition to the screws in my hips.”
While most athletes have normal arm, leg, and hand function, wheelchair basketball presents challenges, according to Howell.
“Chair skills are super important,” he explained. “How fast can you accelerate, control your chair, and turn – you also need upper-body strength to shoot the basketball in a sitting position.”
Wheelchair basketball takes up most of his time, but he also enjoys serving as the team manager for the South Point boys basketball team.
“Preston is an amazing young man,'' said South Point coach Kody Kubbs. “During practice, he often participates in individual drills and helps me instruct the players on the floor. Additionally, whenever there is something that needs to be done at practice, whether it be getting water, collecting basketballs, or any other task, Preston is always on it.”
Kubbs added, “During games, Preston does our shot chart, which is a vital part of my in-game coaching. I trust Preston to keep the chart, and it is always done accurately. I have really enjoyed having Preston be a part of the team and am excited for his future in the sport.”
That future in the sport includes playing wheelchair basketball for the University of Alabama. Howell, who plans to study business or computer science, will be eligible for the national team again in 2025 should he decide to continue pursuing his dream.
“I am grateful for the opportunities and the people who helped me in this journey,” he said. “It’s kind of unreal the way I’m able to travel and have fun.”