When Catholic's Zach Howell isn't putting up big numbers, he's texting his coach to open the gym

Wyatt D. Wheeler
Springfield News-Leader

ROGERSVILLE — On a Sunday afternoon, Catholic head coach Denny Hunt could be sitting around doing nothing when suddenly his phone buzzes.

It's a text message from Zach Howell. 

"Come open the gym, coach," Howell texts. 

Every time, Hunt gets in his car and drives to the school.

"It's an overused term, but he's a gym rat," Hunt said. 

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Catholic's Zach Howell seen here against Summit Christian Academy in Rogersville on December 12, 2020.

That work-ethic has made Howell among the best scorers in all of southwest Missouri and he's only getting better. 

Howell, a junior guard, entered Saturday afternoon's Springfield Catholic 51-29 win over Summit Christian averaging 30 points per game. Scoring outputs included games in which he scored 41, 35 and 32 in this young season. 

At 6-foot-4, Howell is capable of stretching the floor because of his excellent range. He hit 5-of-11 triples in a 71-53 win over Central and was 4-of-8 in an early-season win over Fair Grove. 

But he's also capable of doing more. 

 Catholic's Zach Howell seen here against Summit Christian Academy in Rogersville on December 12, 2020.

When up 22 with just over three-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game, Howell was still diving on the floor for loose balls. With his size, he's capable of posting up defenders down low and he can also bring the ball up the floor as a point guard. 

He averages a double-double. Entering the afternoon's game, he had 10 or more boards in every game but one while averaging 12.8. Even when he scored a season-high 35 against Fair Grove, he grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds. 

He can do it all. 

"I have a lot of room to grow," Howell said. "Especially when it comes to being a leader. This is the first time I've stepped into a leadership role and I think I'm going to continue to get better at that."

Catholic's Zach Howell seen here against Summit Christian Academy in Rogersville on December 12, 2020.

Others are taking notice of Howell's game as well. He currently holds an offer from Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. As a junior, and having the shooting capability for his height, more are sure to come calling. 

Howell admits he wasn't that great of an athlete until recently when he decided it was time to put in the work. He's a player with a high ceiling and he knows he's capable of being great. 

Until then, even on days that are supposed to be off, he's going to be texting his coach asking him to come open the gym. 

"I take pride in my work ethic," Howell said. "So I've always been putting up shots in the gym and I really take a lot of pride in that."

Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at wwheeler@news-leader.com or Twitter at @WyattWheeler_NL. You can subscribe to his free "Bears Beat" newsletter on News-Leader.com. He's also the co-host of Sports Talk on Jock Radio weekdays from 4-6 p.m.