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“Even when I’m open, when I start to jump I’m still looking around the court,” Howard said. “We played George Mason, and I threw that pass to Alex out of bounds. Even when I’m getting ready to shoot, I’m still looking and I just find the rim at the last second. That’s probably why I miss a lot, actually, because I’m really not looking at the rim.”

Howard realizes a vital truth about his place on this roster. With so many other options, Maryland doesn’t need him to score — hence an average of 3.9 points.

That would be a career-low, but there’s little doubt Howard is enjoying his best college season so far.

“Coming off surgery, you never know what you’re going to get,” Turgeon said. “He’s been better than expected. He’s playing better than I thought he could play after coaching him for most of last season. He’s become a better leader, more vocal, he has a great understanding of what I want him to do out there, and he’s making players around him better.”

On a team two years removed from its last NCAA tournament appearance, it is little wonder Howard is popular for his on-court unselfishness. But he gets some gentle ribbing about passing up shots even from teammates, who can see him gradually regaining all of his explosiveness now that he’s more than 10 months removed from surgery.

Howard shed his knee brace recently, and a few weeks ago during practice jumped from the foul line and went between two defenders and drew a foul while depositing a layup.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I think he’s back now,’” Wells said.

Fortunately for Maryland as it approaches the greatest tests on its schedule, he’s better than ever, too.