Sam Howery averaged the most assists of any high school basketball player in the country last season, according to maxpreps.com’s database.
The St. Mary’s point guard responded with a shrug.
“A lot of people were letting me know,” said Howery, who dished out an incredible 10.2 assists/game as a junior. “But at the end of the day, we were just trying to see how many points we could score as a team and just get the win. I kind of put that aside.”
The thing that stuck with Howery more: falling one game short of his ultimate team goal. St. Mary’s reached the Class 3A championship game undefeated (16-0) before losing to Baye Fall and Lutheran High School. But a new title quest is on the horizon.
The Colorado prep basketball season begins next week with the start of organized team practices. On Tuesday, at CHSAA winter sports media day at Ball Arena, the top players and coaches gathered from across the state.
Howery, a CSU-Pueblo commit, arrived as Colorado’s undisputed assists king. He also ranks among its top scorers averaging 21.4 points last season.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been around Sam since he was eight,” St. Mary’s assistant coach Oscar Hernandez said. “I’ve seen the growth and him playing up against kids two or three years older than him. Just being able to see the court and finding those mismatches. … I’ve expected it from him for a long time.”
Howery added: “I just understand what’s (happening) on the floor. I can find mismatches, different matchups, and just give guys the ball if they’re open. Luckily, they put the ball in the basket.”
His success is more predictable when you consider the family.
Sam’s younger brother, Max, is St. Mary’s backup sophomore point guard. Josephine Howery, Sam’s older sister, also starred for the school with consecutive basketball state championship victories (2018-19).
“They’ve always compared me to my sister and all that, and it’s a lot, but we’ve been playing against each other for years in one-on-one (and) on the same team,” Howery said. “It’s really paid off. We’ve worked hard against each other. It makes playing in games a lot easier.”
Jordan Kelley embracing Regis Jesuit opportunity
The most notable Colorado prep basketball head coaching news this offseason? The sudden dismissal at Regis Jesuit of Carl Mattei — winner of 399 career games over 17 seasons with three state championships.
The school cut ties with Mattei in August due to a “growing lack of alignment with RJ leadership regarding the vision for the program and its support of the school’s mission.”
Regis now turns to a familiar face, Jordan Kelley, to lead its vaunted girls basketball program. She spent three previous seasons (2016-18) as an assistant coach for the Raiders.
“I understand what this program means to people,” Kelley said. “I was hired in late September, so it’s been kind of challenging at times to figure things out so quickly. But we have a great number of girls in the gym. … I’m very positive and very high energy. I love to play fast, up-tempo, and have a lot of fun, too.”
Regis players were forced to adjust on the fly to an unexpected coaching change. But they’re optimistic about the future. Kelly has a strong basketball pedigree as a former standout player at the University of Wyoming and two seasons as an assistant coach for the University of Idaho.
“It was a little rough at the beginning with how sudden our other coach left,” said Regis sophomore Hana Belibi, younger sister of dunking Regis star Fran Belibi (now at Stanford). “But I think coach Jordan has been doing a really good job of keeping us together, being structured, and staying with what we know.”
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