As an undersized big man for the Bridgeport Bulls, Stephen Howdeshell faced tall challenges each night on the basketball court.
“Being 6-1, you wouldn’t think you’d step on the court and face taller people all around you,” Howdeshell said.
Despite giving up several inches per night down low, he averaged 11 points and 9.1 rebounds on his way to earning All-Wise County honors.
But those giants on the court probably should be grateful their battles with Howdeshell in the paint didn’t turn into to verbal sparring matches.
They would have been at a severe disadvantage.
The Bridgeport senior won the 9-3A title in persuasive speaking last month. He also won the district title in current events and will compete in both events at the Class 3A Region II University Interscholastic League Academic meet May 1 at Texas A&M-Commerce.
A transplant from Wisconsin, who actually chose the jersey number 4 to honor his hero, Brett Favre, Howdeshell began competing in extemporaneous speaking last year, finishing second in 9-3A and advancing to the finals at regionals.
This year, after winning the district title, he’s hoping to battle for a state spot.
In the two types of extemporaneous speaking – informative or persuasive – contestants draw five topics out of a bag and pick one to present a speech on.
“The topics can range from Iraq to the governor’s race in Texas,” Howdeshell explained.
The speakers are given 30 minutes to outline a speech, going through the files and materials. Howdeshell points out that you are not allowed to use a previously written speech.
After the 30 minutes is up, the speakers present their speech – which can be as long as seven minutes – to the judges. Howdeshell said most of his speeches are about five minutes.
“When I first started, there was some sweating and nervousness,” he said. “After a few repetitions and practice, you get relaxed and you look forward to it, and having all the eyes on you.”
Howdeshell plans to use those persuasive speaking skills in the future as a lawyer and possibly in politics. He’s going to Mary Hardin-Baylor in the fall and hopes to attend the University of Texas Law School after he finishes his undergrad.
Howdeshell takes a lot of pride in what he’s accomplished in speech along with what the Bulls managed to do on the court, ending a 10-year playoff drought.
“As a team, we took a lot of pride in what we did,” he said. “At every position, we were undersized. As our coach said, there was never a game where we won the eye test. But we still got a dozen wins and made the playoffs.”
He credits some of the lessons from basketball with helping him with his speeches, but adds that his two interests are quite different.
“In basketball there are nine other guys out there. Standing in front of the judge speaking, you have all the control,” Howdeshell explained.
On the court, he said he never tried to engage his opponents in debates over the freedom of the Chinese press or the need for humanitarian aid for Syrian rebels – as he did to win his district persuasive speaking title.
“I don’t think they would have listened,” Howdeshell said.
- Over the past few weeks, it’s been quite the three-ring circus in Alvord with the handling of the contract for athletic director and football coach Curtis Enis. Is he in? Is he out? Maybe so, but not today. If he’s gone, why after just two years – and what will be gained, especially when Alvord will finally be with schools its own size to compete against? (Yes, they should be good next year in the new Class 2A.) But then again, why was Don Deweber not brought back after a trip to the playoffs? Maybe under the current leadership, this circus could be expected.
- Colleyville Heritage has its replacement for new Decatur coach Mike Fuller. Darren Allman, previously at Austin Westlake, will take over at Heritage. He spent five seasons at Westlake, going 45-21.
- Regional track meets are this weekend. I expect Wise County to at least have 10 athletes making the trip south to Austin May 9-10. The easiest bet is Northwest’s Desire Freier – the two-time state champ in the girls pole. Hopefully the West Texas winds Saturday allow the Lady Texan senior to take a shot at her personal best 14-6 and more.
- Not many sports days in the Metroplex could compare with Wednesday as the Dallas Stars and Dallas Mavericks pulled off upsets of top seeds in the playoffs and the Texas Rangers completed an early-season sweep of the Oakland A’s. The only downer on the local sports landscape was the Dallas Cowboys’ schedule coming out and what surely looks like another 8-8 campaign at best.
- While there is still a long way to go in the Spurs-Mavs series and I’d still bet on San Antonio, through two games it has reminded me of the 2007 ill-fated Dallas-Golden State series. After blowing an opportunity in the finals, Dallas roared through the regular season with the best record in the league. They then bowed out in the first round against Golden State. Last year, San Antonio had its chance to beat Miami to win a title and fumbled it away. This year, they put up the West’s best record. A major difference between that 2007 Dallas team and this year’s San Antonio team is the Spurs have Greg Popovich and not Avery Johnson.
- Never would have pictured this start for the Rangers, who went into Friday tied for the AL West lead and best record in the American League. Ron Washington deserves credit for keeping this team playing this well despite all the injuries. There’s still a long way to go, but there’s a lot of reason for optimism as the rotation gets healthier with each passing day. Help for the offense will arrive this weekend with Adrian Beltre returning. But starting well hasn’t been the Rangers’ problem the past two seasons. The team and Washington will be measured by what they do in September and October.
- Finally a brag on the alma mater, UNT. Not only did the Mean Green win the Heart of Dallas Bowl, but according to Conference USA the football team led the league with the highest grade-point average.