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College basketball: Watertown’s Howard inducted into JCC Hall of Fame

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Jefferson Community College honored former basketball standout Steve Howard as well as his mentor Steve Brown, a longtime learning skills specialist and contributor of the school’s athletic program, as both were inducted on Thursday into the college’s athletic Hall of Fame.

Howard, who starred for Watertown High School and JCC in the 1990s as well as at St. Francis as a guard in basketball and eventually in the pro ranks, was unable to attend the festivities at the Watertown Elks Lodge.

But fittingly enough, Howard was absent because he is running a summer basketball camp for youth players in Pennsylvania.

Howard, who endured and survived a “turbulent” youth, sought refuge in scholastic and collegiate basketball and eventually became a teacher.

“Coming in, people thought he was just this rough, tough character,” Brown said of Howard, the Cannoneers’ all-time leader in points scored (1,566) after finishing second in that category (1,230) at Watertown High. “But he was much more than that — he was shy when he came (to JCC), and he gained confidence and took it from there.”

Howard, 35, teaches physical education and is the student activities coordinator at Rambam Mesivta High School in Lawrence on Long Island.

“It’s great that he’s a teacher now,” Brown said of Howard, who conducts a basketball camp at Camp Seneca Lake in Honesdale, Pa. “And I know he’s grateful to the people he worked with while he was a student here, and he’s doing pretty well.”

The 1996 graduate of Watertown played two seasons at JCC, years split by a failed venture to fit in at the NAIA level with Southern California College.

He set a JCC single-game record for most points (51).

“When I spoke to Steve about the Hall of Fame and everyone knows Steve, he said ‘Wow, that’s awesome,’” current JCC athletic director Jeffrey Wiley said. “He was special player for this program.”

The Cannoneers advanced to the NJCAA national title game in 1997, where he scored 32 points in a 79-75 loss to Eastfield College of Texas.

In both seasons at JCC, Howard was a first-team pick for the All-Mid-State Athletic Conference and All-Region 3 teams. He was the Mid-State player of the year each season, and as a senior, he was the MVP of Region 3 and a first-team NJCAA Division III All-American, averaging 28.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.

Howard went on to play the next two seasons at Division I St. Francis College in Brooklyn. He scored 1,081 points in two seasons with the Terriers, helping them win their first Northeast Conference regular-season crown, with Howard making the All-NEC team twice.

“Back then it was real exciting when everyone from Watertown went down to the Carrier Dome to see Steve and St. Francis play Syracuse in front of family and friends,” Wiley said.

Howard went on to play at the pro level in Europe, including Ireland, Iceland and Cyprus and led his Icelandic team, Skallagrimur-Borgarnes, to the Division I Pro League title in 2004.

“He’s come a long way,” Brown concluded about Howard. “I’m really happy for him and it was too bad he couldn’t be with us tonight.”

Brown retired from JCC in 2011 after a 26-year career at the school that included the post of learning skills specialist.

“That was his career, but he was a mentor to the athletes,” Wiley said of Brown, who received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in the Professional Service in 2002.

Brown, who held open summer basketball sessions early during his time with the Cannoneers, also served as a longtime announcer and scorekeeper for men’s and women’s basketball, also traveling on the road with the teams, reporting the scores to local media outlets.

“It’s a great honor,” said Brown, who holds a bachelor of arts from then SUNY Binghamton and a master of arts from Syracuse. “And it’s particularly a great honor because of all the kids I got to work with. Helping students out academically was what it was all about. And of course it was a lot of fun being involved with the athletic programs as well.”

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