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Thursday, July 10
 
Howard is center of attention at ABCD

By Michael Kruse
Special to ESPN.com

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Dwight Howard has a simple goal for the summer.

Simple to state, that is -- harder to actually do.

"Total domination," he said Wednesday at the ABCD Camp. "Every game."

So far so good. The 6-foot-10 center from Atlanta is the best overall player this week at adidas' annual All-America extravaganza.

Howard's not going to say as much. He's far too nice, far too mature and far too soft-spoken to go popping off with proclamations of his own greatness.

But listen here: Get to know the name. Because it's going to be one of the first few called at next June's NBA Draft.

His has a lean, well-proportioned frame -- big but not bulky, sleek but not skinny, long but not gangly. He's an athlete who just happens to have gotten as tall as he has.

"Just take one look at him," PrepStars.com recruiting expert Rob Harrington said while watching Howard's game Wednesday night. "He just looks like somebody who'd kick everyone's butt."

Looks, though, are just that -- looks -- and Howard decided that he wanted to actually be that player. And it was a decision.

"Dwight just made up his mind," said Wallace Prather, who runs the Atlanta Celtics program for which Howard plays his summer ball. "He said to himself that he wanted to be the best player in America."

He started in school ball, averaging 21 points, 17 rebounds, eight blocks and four assists last winter at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy.

And he kept it up this spring with the Celtics on the circuit, owning entire events en route to a Tournament of Champions Memorial Day performance in North Carolina that all but solidified what he'd become.

Howard was no longer just good. He was really, really good, and he was making a quiet transition -- as is his custom -- to ridiculously, amazingly good.

"To me," said swingman Josh Smith, one of his high-profile Celtics teammates, "he's always been good."

But now he's even better.

"He's a beast," said Glen Davis, a 6-9 power player from Baton Rouge, La., who's considered one of the top 20 overall prospects in the Class of 2004. "He just grabs everything. It's like his hands are webs or something."

"Dwight Howard's the best player here," Bob Gibbons All Star Sports Report scout Rob Matera said. "By far. It's not even close."

In agreement are coaches at Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Indiana, Georgia Tech and on and on.

They all want a piece.

And they all pretty much know better.

Howard's a bright kid and a good student -- and he says he wants to do at least a year or two of college -- but the NBA's probably not going to let him.

Whether or not he's projected to be a lottery pick is no longer the issue. The only question is how high. Top 10? Top 5? Top three?

"I want to go to college at least for one or two years," Howard said Wednesday night. "I want to win the NCAA championship."

But

"If it's God's will," he added when asked about the looming prospect of the NBA, "then I'll be there."

Maybe sooner rather than later.

"His parents are good, solid people," Celtics coach Karl McCray said. "They will sit down and make the decision that's best for them."

For the time being, though, the decision is simple -- to dominate.

"Rebounding, scoring, making assists, doing everything to make my team win," Howard said. "That's total domination."

And that's the goal.

Michael Kruse, who writes for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.






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