Brothers carry on family's basketball legacy despite stigma of autism
Wichita Eagle - 12/13/2018
Dec. 13--HAYSVILLE -- Cade and Zach Howard remember playing basketball as far back as they can recall.
"We've always been shooting around in our driveway," Zach said.
Now the brothers are part of the Campus High School basketball program, but their story goes deeper than that.
Cade is a three-year starter. At 6-foot-6, he is a daunting presence inside and has helped the Colts to their first 3-0 start in more than a decade. But his brother might have the better half of the story.
Zach, a sophomore, is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. He can run and shoot, and he isn't in the program as a feel-good story or to serve as a manager. He is there to play.
Zach has the same physical gifts as his brother. Campus coach Chris Davis said he is big, tall and wide. He is still learning the ins and outs of the game, but he added four points to the Colts' junior-varsity win against Hutchinson on Tuesday.
"That's the part that makes (Zach) great is that he's such a great teammate," Davis said. "He's always having fun. The kids love him and take care of him. He does the most with what he has, of what his capabilities are."
Zach said he doesn't see his condition as a setback.
"I've always wanted to play under the lights," he said. "I've watched my brothers play for years now, so it's really awesome to be able to practice and play every day in this gym."
Cade said it gets to him when people speak negatively about autism. He sees the work his brother puts in every day.
"People have their stigmas, and it's not right," he said. "He's just like anybody else on the team. He competes. He goes out there and plays at his hardest."
The Howards have a basketball history. The brothers' grandfather played at Kansas State for a year, and their older brother Chace also went on to play in college.
The Howards have engraved their legacy at Campus, and Cade said that is meaningful to him and his family.
"This is important," he said. "I've been thinking about it ever since I was little, how when I'm a senior I'll have two little brothers there with me. I get to watch them every night."
The Howards also have a younger brother in the program. Andrew is a freshman with the Colts. Davis said he, too, will work his way through the ranks.
Davis said the Howard name has been associated with success for years at Campus thanks to Chace and Cade. Cade is narrowing his college choices and is down to the likes of Princeton and Notre Dame.
The family is rooted in education, too, with Cade scoring in the high 30s on the ACT. The brothers' father, Brian Howard, is the principal at Rex Elementary, and their mother, Stephanie Howard, is a science teacher at Haysville West Middle School.
"Unless you're going pro, basketball isn't going to carry you through your entire life," Cade said. "I think it's important to have a firm education and know what you're doing with your life."
As for Zach, Davis said he still has a long way to go. But that is the case with most sophomores in the program.
"He belongs," Davis said. "He's got a chance to really, really grow. I just want him around because he's a great kid, and if he learns and gets better, that's just a plus."
For now, the family name is being carried on at Campus as the brothers play out their dreams.
"All three of us have never played before on the same team until now, so it's really special," Zach said.
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