Ben Howlett made his living as an offensive sparkplug for the West Liberty University men's basketball team.
Now the former Marietta High School standout wants to give back and teach his tricks of the trade to the next generation of players.
Heading into his second full year as director of the Hilltopper Basketball Camp in West Liberty, W.Va., Howlett brings in a staff which consists of current members of the WLU program. The camp runs from July 22-25 and Howlett encourages anyone entering grades 5-12 looking to develop their offensive skills to register.
"I think so many camps are ran the same way and kids don't get much out of it," said Howlett, who serves as an assistant to WLU head coach Jim Crutchfield. "We concentrate on one thing. I coach the same way we coach the guys here at West Liberty. We get them to do the same exact drills.
"A lot of times, camps are not real intense. We like high intensity with our practices and we have that at the camp as well."
Howlett is hoping to lure prospects from the Mid-Ohio Valley as part of his camper base - the same area where he lit up the scoreboard with his outside shooting as a member of the Marietta Tigers. The 2005 MHS graduate still holds school records for most points in a career, in a season and for one game.
He still remembers the 48-point performance against Tyler Consolidated, but living in the past is not his focus. One of his top priorities is someday landing a head coaching position in the college ranks.
What better individual to learn from than Crutchfield, who recently won the West Virginia Sportswriters Association's College Coach of the Year award after leading the Hilltoppers to their second consecutive 30-win season and back-to-back NCAA Division II Atlantic Region championships.
"Coach Crutchfield actually had a vision when he first took the job that people probably thought he was nuts to play this much up-tempo and this fast," Howlett said. "But it's done nothing but good things. It's a fun program to play in and as a player they were the best four years of my life."
WLU has taken scoring to another level - averaging more than 97 points per game the past seven seasons. Howlett noted that the program gets labeled for not being defensive-minded, but that is far from the truth.
"We get that reputation of being a run-and-gun team, but we do guard and emphasize defense," Howlett said.
As a player, Howlett thrived in the Hilltopper system. After averaging 20.1 ppg as a junior, he emerged as the fourth-leading Division II scorer in the nation (23.0 ppg) as a senior and ranked among the top 20 nationally in field-goal percentage at 61.1 percent.
Howlett finished his career ranked No. 11 on WLU's career scoring list with 1,663 points and No. 2 all-time at the school in field-goal percentage at 58.9. He said none of that would have been possible without a strong work ethic.
Following his senior year of college basketball, Howlett entertained thoughts of playing internationally after receiving offers from professional teams based in Latvia and several other European countries. Instead, he decided to remain on staff with Crutchfield as a student assistant.
Howlett later spent one season as an assistant with Ohio Valley University and head coach Mike Snell before returning to WLU.
"I was close to doing it (playing overseas)," Howlett admitted. "I wanted to do it, but I took another year to graduate and I didn't want to go overseas without having my degree. I guess it all worked out in the end."
Howlett insists he can still shoot the rock. As a matter of fact, whenever the WLU scout team is short a player Howlett is called upon to fill in and lace up the sneakers.
"It's still something I love to do," he said.
Howlett, who is the son of Paul and Margo Howlett, now calls West Liberty his second home. An ideal location considering Morgantown is a short distance away.
"My dad went to West Virginia University and I grew up going to basketball and football games," Howlett said. "I've been a big WVU fan my whole life."
For the time being, Howlett is preparing for his camp, which will rival the same number produced by the WLU offense.
"I'm looking to get around 100 kids," Howlett said. "With some of these camps, there are so many breaks - but with ours, they will be playing a lot of basketball."
By Kerry Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org