Richard Howell has admittedly struggled with foul troubles as his college basketball career has continued.
But his emergence for N.C. State this season symbolizes in many ways how the Wolfpack have battled their way into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
N.C. State barely made it into the 68-team field when it was announced earlier this month, but it's been a sure thing since then, including an upset of Georgetown on Sunday.
Now Howell, a junior forward who helped Wheeler win a Class AAAAA state title in 2009, faces another big challenge in tonight's Sweet 16 game in St. Louis: The Kansas Jayhawks and All-American forward Thomas Robinson.
Howell's up-and-down season has been marked by foul trouble and some mood swings stemming from them. But when Howell is focused and defensively aggressive in the right way, his coaches rave about him.
As N.C. State assistant coach Bobby Lutz told the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer: "He has great timing and a fierce desire to rebound. That's a huge part of it. He wants to get the ball. It sounds simple, but not everybody wants it as badly as he does."
Howell is N.C. State's fourth-leading scorer at 11 points a game and leads the team in rebounding with a 9.1 average. In the Wolfpack's previous NCAA game against San Diego State, he scored 22 points, shooting 10-for-12 from the field, as Aztecs' coach Steve Fisher called him "a load."
Howell got off to a strong start this season under new coach Mark Gottfried, but encountered foul trouble in the second half of the season, fouling out five times in the last two months.
He says that he while he aspires to play like NBA star Carmelo Anthony, the Charlotte Observer notes that he's drawn comparisons to another notable basketball figure for his rebounding prowess: "I got here and I turned into Dennis Rodman. It's all cool."
Former standout Ryan Harrow, who transferred from N.C. State to Kentucky over the summer, won't be playing for the Wildcats tonight in their Sweet 16 game at the Georgia Dome against Indiana.
He's sitting out this season under NCAA transfer rules but is expected to get some serious playing time next season for Kentucky, which will likely lose most of its current lineup to the NBA.