Not only am I new to the Nike Camp but it has been about 35 years since I did my last interview. And that was as a sportswriter for my high school newspaper. Needless to say, I am a little rusty in my interview skills...
Therefore, it was a genuine pleasure to have interviewed someone like Jodi Howell who is, at once, a very sincere and engaging young woman. She gave me her undivided attention and put me at ease throughout the interview with her quick smiles and warm laughter at the lighter moments of our discussion.
Bob Richards joined us as he finished his interviews before Jodi arrived.
The first question I asked Jodi was the obvious one... how her knee was doing following the USA Developmental Festival in Colorado Springs.
"Oh, it's doing fine," she noted. "Just tweaked it. Tore the cartilage slightly. But it's okay."
She admitted she was being limited to only one game per day not so much for additional healing but to bring it along very gradually in order to avoid any further risks. "I'll be ready for the season," she confirmed.
She indicated she was not really doing any special physical therapy for the knee other than her regular offseason workout regimen. When I asked her if she was favoring the knee in any way during games, she admitted she reached in a little more instead of moving laterally on defense. She chuckled at this but I could sense just a little frustration within.
When asked if it had been emotionally or mentally draining to this point to still be sitting on the bench so much, she said it was but she said she just tries to support her teammates in any way she can from the bench. Spoken like a real trooper! I then asked her if the injury was like her earlier ACL tear in junior high school.
"Quite frankly, I don't even remember it. I mean, I remember there being pain and all, but I really don't remember what it was like to get through it."
I have no doubt she, like most of us, would probably prefer to forget such times in our lives. As such, she seemed very much ready to move on and get back into the swing of things as quickly as possible.
Sensing she must be getting tired of being constantly bludgeoned by these endless questions about her knee, I changed tack and asked her about her involvement in recruiting for Purdue. When Katie Gearlds committed, at once she became one of our most vocal "recruiters" when playing with other top players. I asked Jodi if there was any pressure on her to do the same.
"No, not really," she shrugged. "But I do talk to the other girls about it."
Though Jodi comes across as a somewhat shy and reserved person, she has no trouble communicating with others. As a result, she noted she talks quite a bit about Purdue to others who would listen. Jodi reaffirmed that even after a visit to IU (to see Kathi "every little girl in Indiana..." Bennett), Purdue just felt right for her.
I asked her if she had an ongoing relationship with Katie Gearlds and Jodi indicated that the two corresponded on occasion though their summer schedules have prevented them from crossing tracks.
I had not known it before but Jodi indicated that she had never been on the floor with or against Katie to this point. In addition, she also indicated that the same was true with her and both Amber Harris and Ta'Shia Phillips though she admitted they have talked with one another.
Jodi seems genuinely excited about the prospects of playing at Purdue with these other young women. When asked where she felt she best fit in, Jodi immediately responded with the politically correct, "anywhere they feel I can be of help!"
However, in reassuring her that we all understood her desire to put her team first, I asked again.
"Oh maybe at the two, maybe the three," she hedged. "Again, wherever they feel I could be of the greatest help."
With some people you get the feeling that a statement like that is mere lip service. With Jodi, you can feel the sincerity, see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice. One thing is for certain. Ms. Howell will be, like so many other fine women in Old Gold and Black before her, a consummate ambassador for her future school. They just don't make women athletes any better than this.
And one more note.
Jodi did admit that she follows the internet and is quite familiar with this site. Which is a good reminder for the rest of us to keep in mind that having such fine young persons like Jodi Howell in our lives is a privilege regardless of her stats and performance from game to game. She is, after all, a wonderful human being raised by two loving and fine parents.
And I, for one, genuinely look forward for her career to begin at my alma mater.