Hours before he opens the D-League Finals in Santa Cruz, California, Mad Ants guard Ron Howard has been chosen as league Co-MVP today.
He shares the award with Iowa's Othyus Jeffers, after a vote among league coaches.
Howard, 31, who became the league's all-time leading scorer, has spent all seven seasons of his career with the Mad Ants. They play Game 1 of the best-of-three series against the Warriors tonight at Kaiser Permanente Arena.
Games 2 and 3, if it's necessary, will be at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday and Sunday.
The Mad Ants went a league-best 34-16 during the regular season, winning 17 of their last 20 games, and they've swept Reno and Sioux Falls in the playoffs, extending their winning streak at home to 16 games.
Howard averaged 20.5 points per game, ninth most in the league, and tops on the Mad Ants roster in the regular season. He also averaged 4.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds, while playing in 49 of 50 games.
For the second straight year, he won the D-League's Jason Collier Sportsmanship Award for representing the ideals of character and conduct, on and off the court. He mentors boys at Northwood Elementary, volunteers at a food bank and with the Feed My Starving Children Program, and he's involved with multiple D-League off-court initiatives.
On the court, Howard is the undisputed leader of the Mad Ants, who had five players – Solomon Hill, Jamaal Franklin, Peyton Siva, Orlando Johnson and Tony Mitchell – sent down by NBA teams this season. The other Tony Mitchell earned a 10-day contract with the Milwaukee Bucks and remains with the Mad Ants in the playoffs.
Despite his success, Howard has never played an NBA game, despite multiple opportunities in training camps, including a shot last fall with the Indiana Pacers.
In these playoffs, Howard is averaging 17.3 points, 4.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds, despite giving up some of his playing time to Matt Bouldin and Trey McKinney-Jones.
Against Santa Cruz, Howard, one of the D-League's top defenders, will have to lock down star Seth Curry.
Jeffers, 28, averaged 20.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists for Iowa, the Mad Ants' chief rival, during the regular season.
“I’m thrilled that our coaches honored both Othyus and Ron as Co-MVPs in our league this season,” said Chris Alpert, vice president of Basketball Operations for the NBA D-League. “Both Ron and Othyus had impressive seasons, leading their teams to Division Championships while putting up the best numbers of their respective careers. I’m proud to honor them both, and congratulate each of them on the tremendous and well-deserved award.”