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(The Monitor) RGV Vipers notebook story

Discussion in 'Rio Grande Valley Vipers' started by HoopScribe, Nov 7, 2013.

  1. HoopScribe

    HoopScribe Member

    Jul 19, 2013
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    The RGV Vipers notebook looks at Dwight Howard's brother and the return of a player and coach to the organization. And a video interview with the Vipers' No. 2 draft pick James Johnson.


    Dennis Silva II | The Monitor

    EDINBURG — As the NBA D-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers’ training camp starts today, one name on the 17-man roster may raise eyebrows.
    That name is Jahaziel Howard, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard who is also the younger brother of Dwight, the current Houston Rockets star. The affable Howard, whose first name is Hebrew and means “God sees,” has had a mercurial journey since leaving Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, with stops at Oral Roberts and Central Florida among others in college, but sees this as “the best opportunity.”
    “This is a beautiful experience and I’m just taking it in every day,” Howard said. “I think this will be a great fit for me and hopefully they like what they see.”
    After high school, Howard had short-lived stops at Oral Roberts, where injuries plagued him, and Central Florida, where he didn’t see eye-to-eye with the head coach and left a few months later.
    He had a strong year at Northwest-Shoals Community College as a redshirt freshman in 2008-2009, but trying to gather information after that is difficult. A player profile when he played basketball in 2011-2012 for the Universal Basketball Association’s Southern Generals lists his college as ‘Oral Roberts 2011,’ but his college representation on the Vipers’ training camp roster is his high school, Southwest Atlanta Christian.
    Howard offered little else about his college days aside from that that time helped him “grow up and be a man, be consistent and work hard.”
    “It was a little rough. I skipped around a little bit, trying to find myself,” he said. “You know, like most young men do. But it prepared me for now. All the struggles, all the different schools and coaches, it got me ready.”
    After college, Howard played in Canada and Italy for a bit before going back home and working on his game until the right opportunity came. He found that in the Valley, just like his older brother found it in Houston this summer.
    “That was a great move for him,” Howard said. “I’m happy he found a place that welcomed him as much as he wanted to be there. He’s healthy, he’s got his mind right, and for both of us this is a new beginning. The sky’s the limit from here.”


    Aside from James Johnson, a four-year NBA veteran who was drafted by the Vipers with the No. 2 pick in last week’s NBDL draft, returner Chris Johnson is the only other player in Vipers camp with NBA experience.
    Johnson played eight games with the Memphis Grizzlies last season before returning to the Vipers and playing a big role in their second championship in four years. He spent time in camp with the Brooklyn Nets this fall before being cut.
    He returns again to the Vipers a new man.
    “I learned a lot in terms of my work ethic and my skill level, picking their brains of the veterans I’ve been around, like in Brooklyn,” he said. “I feel more poised and comfortable, knowing how to pace myself.”
    Johnson said he is an improved ballhandler, and he now finds himself a leader. The Vipers’ camp roster consists of nine rookies.
    “I played that leadership role in college,” he said. “It’s the pro level and I’m just looking forward to the opportunity. With a new coach and a new team, it’s important we stick together.”


    At 33 years old, Nevada Smith will be one of the youngest head coaches in the NBA system. But he’ll have a nice helping hand in Paul Mokeski.
    Mokeski, the former 12-year NBA veteran who spent the last two seasons as head coach of Reno, returns to the Vipers as an associate head coach after serving as an assistant coach under Chris Finch in 2009-10 and 2010-11, when the Vipers won their first D-League title (2010) before falling a game short of repeating the following season.
    Mokeski’s contract with Reno was not renewed and he was scheduled to spend this season scouting the west coast for four NBA teams when the Rockets called last week.
    “They’re putting together a new staff, wanted to know if I was interested, and obviously I was comfortable with the organization and the Vipers,” Mokeski said. “I thought I had the experience to help the franchise. It was a bit unexpected and quick, but it just made sense.”
    Mokeski has more than 20 years of coaching experience, which will prove significant alongside Smith, who just three weeks ago was coaching practices for NCAA Division III Keystone College.
    “It’s not an easy transition, but it’s not a crazy idea either,” Mokeski said of Smith’s quick promotion. “He’s a very successful coach. A lot of emphasis may be put on what level you’re coaching, but really it comes down to if you can coach.”

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