Ready for the ACC

Natasha Howard will leave Ohio for college and is headed for the ACC. Glenn Nelson/ESPN.com

Natasha Howard made a college basketball staff very happy Sunday.

Howard, the No. 2 player in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred for 2010, made them so happy, in fact, that the staff at Florida State was heard screaming and, presumably, jumping up and down during the speakerphone conversation in which Howard proclaimed her intention to join the Seminoles.

"I told them if I come down there, they have to push me to be successful, on and off the court," Howard said. "Successful as a person, a student and a player. They said they could do that."

Howard, a 6-foot-3 forward from Toledo, Ohio, took her official visit to the Tallahassee, Fla., campus in late September, between visits to Auburn and Xavier, but didn't make her decision until recently. When she spoke to the Florida State coaches by phone Sunday, she decided it was the time to tell them her choice.

"They're really excited," Howard said. "And I am, too. It was kind of hard the past couple months [with school, recruiting and getting ready for basketball season]."

Howard is the fourth verbal for the Seminoles from the class of 2010. She joins fellow Ohioan Tay'ler Mingo, a 5-7 point guard and No. 76 in the class, and Olivia Breshnahan, a 5-11 guard from Fenelton, Pa., and No. 68 in the class.

During her visit, Howard spent time with future teammates, explored the campus, met with the athletic department's academic staff and a business professor. She plans to study business in college so that she can own her own business and design her own line of clothing.

But before the future after basketball, there is a future of basketball for Howard. Despite more quiet summers that don't include the larger circuits of club basketball competition, Howard has shown an ability to play with and against the best in the country. At Nike's National Skills Academy, Howard was one of the breakout players against 19 of the toughest opponents.

With long arms and crazy speed, Howard is of the basketball player breed that needs to remember to keep weight on her lean frame. She said the Florida State coaches want her to focus on getting stronger, including in the weight room, as well as working on her handles. Lucky for her the game comes as easy to her as to anyone in the country.

"I'm going to have to get through a lot of tough players to score," Howard said.

When she arrives next summer, Howard will be a boon to a Florida State team that won the ACC regular season title for the first time last season, qualifying for a fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

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Mindi Rice is an ESPN HoopGurlz staff writer. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at mindi@hoopgurlz.com.