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Players in new spots help St. Vincent men's basketball

| Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
St. Vincent Athletics
Senior guard Isaac Turner helped lead St. Vincent to its first PAC championship last season.

Before the start of the season, St. Vincent men's basketball coach D.P. Harris said if his team could stay healthy, anything less than a Presidents' Athletic Conference championship would be a failure.

It looks like he jinxed his team.

Just minutes into his first game of the year, 6-foot-8 junior center Grant Latus went down with a knee injury and was lost for the season.

Apparently, it's going to take more than a jinx to derail this season.

Despite the early setback, St. Vincent jumped out to a 10-2 start and 3-0 in the PAC. Without their big man in the center, the Bearcats have shifted junior forward Sean Kett to center and senior forward Dillon Stith from the wing to the block.

Stith has settled into the power forward position brilliantly, averaging 18.4 points and 9.3 rebounds, and scored his 1,000th career point Saturday at Bethany College.

But perhaps the biggest reason for the team's sustained success is the emergence of sophomore point guard J.C. Howard.

“I think that the guys respect him,” Harris said. “You're playing with potentially two All-Americans in (Stith) and Isaac (Turner), and he's earned their respect. He's done that with his play, and that's something that separates him from a lot of people.”

Since sliding over from shooting guard, Howard has been a revelation, averaging 10 points and 3.5 assists and shooting 54 percent from the floor and 44 percent from 3-point range. Those are up from 38 percent and 29 percent, respectively, last season.

“I've always been a shooter,” Howard said. “This year I've really tried to take smart shots because we have a lot of guys on the team who can really score the ball and should be taking the shots.”

Even with their uptick in production, Howard and Stith have had to sacrifice some individual accolades for the betterment of the team.

“Since I've played here, one thing (Harris) implements that I'll remember is that being a player coming into college, you've got to figure out what you can do for the team,” Stith said.

“It's not necessarily what you want to do for the team, but what you have to do for the team.”

Fortunately, what these players want to do most for the team is win.

“We still expect to win our conference,” Howard said. “That's been our goal, and nothing's changed.”

Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at ghorvath@tribweb.com.

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