Back in 2019, the Oak Ridge girls basketball team had its first full season in program history. While it takes time build a program, the Blue Jays 6-foot sophomore Reagan Howe helped her team make history last week.
Howe recorded her 12th double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds for Oak Ridge to beat Charleston 62-34 in the Scott-Mississippi Conference Tournament. This marked the Blue Jays seventh win of the season, which is the most in program history after winning three games in 2019-20, six in 2020-21 and five in 2021-22.
“This season has been a lot of fun — it’s really exciting [to have the most wins in program history],” Howe said. “You can see the progress everybody is making and some people haven’t played basketball very long. The program didn’t start till we were in junior high, so everybody’s getting better and encouraging each other.”
As for Reagan individually, she’s having nothing short of a breakout campaign and is currently averaging 21.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Howe has also produced not one but three 30-point contests as she’s scored a career-high 31 in back-to-back games versus Advance and Bloomfield to start the season.
Howe scores a lot of her points off fast-break opportunities when she comes up with a steal or rebound, and if one of her teammates heaves a pass down the court to her for an easy layup. Reagan also has an array of moves to attack the basket while also implementing a jump shot when she has an open look.
“I feel like everybody hypes me up, and I think they know I’m not going to be too selfish — I’m going to make a good pass,” Howe said. “We will all have good energy on the floor, and I’ll just continue to play — it’s really nice to play and have fun.
“Everybody knows that they can count on me, but they don’t think of me as like a leader or anything. Yes, I do lead in scoring, but there are other aspects that everyone brings to the floor, especially our point guards. They always know how to calm down the plays and make passes.”
Against Charleston, Howe also recorded five steals in the contest as she’s quite the aggressor on the defensive end. If she’s not coming down with the defensive rebound, Howe is either swiping for the ball, deflecting pass attempts or swatting shots.
“I have learned to keep my feet planted on defense, and if you pay attention to their eyes, you can tell which way they’re going to go,” Howe said. “Keep your feet planted and slide with them.”
Howe not only credits her ability but also her athleticism to playing basketball over the spring and summer in the AAU circuit for Southeast Dynasty. This allows Reagan to play in many more games between each high school season.
“I did a lot over the summer — I’ve done a lot of traveling,” Howe said. “Honestly just running helps me a lot, and I did a lot of it over the summer, which got me in better shape. I would say I’ve been blessed to have a lot of great coaches, who have motivated me to get in the gym outside of practice.
“My Southeast Dynasty coaches have pushed me to play less like a forward and more like a guard. They push me to shoot outside shots and take it to the hole, and they have made me a better all-around player.”
Howe explained that she’s also become tougher while playing AAU basketball because of the variety of talent she faces, including players who will continue their careers at the Division-I level. Reagan has aspirations to play college basketball as well, of course, and is on the right track to do so.
“Playing against future D-I players definitely makes you faster because the defense you have to play — you have to hustle way harder,” Howe said. “There’s going to be good shooters, and they’re going to be taller than me. AAU teaches you it’s way bigger than Southeast Missouri.
“Wanting to play in college makes me work so much harder because I think about, ‘Yes, I could go to college, but if I work even harder how far could I go?’ It’s a lot to think about, but I don’t want to make pressure for myself. I just try to remember that I’m doing it for fun.”
Despite the fact Howe knows AAU basketball is preparing her more for a career in college than high school ball is, she thoroughly enjoys playing for a small school like Oak Ridge.
“At a small school, we’re all just really good friends — we all know each other really well,” Reagan explained. “We definitely know how to communicate on the team without getting mad at each other. I love traveling, and I love making friendships.
“I love when people are joking on the court with me from other teams. I love when I get a good fast-break score, and I love when people are cheering me on. It’s just so much fun, especially with our team because we all get along so well.”
Howe first started playing basketball in the third grade through the Cape Girardeau Recreation League, and she first started doing so because of her parents. Reagan said they aren’t the type of people who yell at her if she messes up but instead motivate her to work and do better.
What Howe enjoys the most about basketball is the competition aspect simply because of how much she loves winning. “I love playing my hardest — I love friendly competition, of course, but I feel like I’m a really competitive person,” Reagan said.
Howe and the Blue Jays have seven regular-season games left until the start of the Class 1 District 1 Tournament.