’70s basketball standout Howser: ‘Great honor’ to be in MHS Hall

For The Dominion Post

Growing up in Morgantown in the 1970s, Class of 2013 Morgantown High School Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Susan Muth Howser was a tall, yet typical kid who loved sports, and participated in a bunch of them.
Thank goodness.
“There wasn’t the pressure to specialize back then,” she explained from her LaGrange, Ga., home. “My parents and coaches encouraged me in whatever I was interested in, and besides, there just weren’t quite as many opportunities for girls in those days.
“I didn’t have a chance to play organized basketball until I was in seventh grade. I played tennis with my mother — who was a very good player — and I swam competitively in grade school, but I guess basketball was always my first love. Each sport helped develop my athleticism in the others, and I’m glad I got involved in all of them.
“Besides,” she said with a laugh, “I can always find someone to play tennis with now, but it’s pretty hard to find nine other old ladies who want to play a pick-up game of basketball!”
When Howser received news of her honor, she was shocked.
“It was an unexpected, wonderful surprise,” she smiled. “I figured they’d forgotten some of the things we accomplished 34 years ago.”
But of course, any MHS HOF committee would obviously take notice of such an outstanding, pioneering career.
A three-year letter-winner in basketball and tennis, she played No. 1 singles and twice qualified to play in the state tournament while leading the team to consecutive Big Ten titles.
But it was on the wooden hardcourt where the sharp-shooting post player really made her mark.
Howser averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds in her career, from 1977-’79, Howser earned the program’s first trip to the state tournament, in 1977, with a 19-1 record.
MHS followed up in her junior year with a 23-1 record and the school’s first girls’ basketball Class AAA state title.
The two-time all-state selection also became the first Morgantown High girls’ basketball product to land a scholarship to WVU. She played there four years, was an academic All-East selection, and remains a fixture in the school’s shooting accuracy record books, finishing with a 48.9 field goal percentage, still the fifth-highest in school history.
Asked about her favorite Mohigans moment, there was no hesitation whatsoever.
“The state championship in 1978, without a doubt,” she responded. “We ’d won our first 19 games the previous year, but lost the first tournament game, and that left a really bad taste in our mouth, so we were determined to qualify again. We lost our very first game, lost our coach (Sally Hoover) to maternity leave and had some devastating injuries in the middle of the season, but we never stopped believing.
“The boys’ coach, Clive Green, took over, made a few minor changes, but we just kept battling and kept winning until we beat Dunbar, 38-35, in the final. I still think about that game, and it always makes me smile.”
Current MHS athletic director Dan Erenrich was an assistant baseball and boys’ basketball coach back then, and he remembers her as a player and a person.
“At nearly 6 feet tall, Susan had very good size for the era,” he recalled, “but what stood out the most was her competitiveness. She was a real good kid, quiet, hard-working, dedicated. She led by example, and was a very intense player. She wanted to win, and she did.”
As a senior, she had several small colleges recruit her, but when WVU made an offer, she leaped at the opportunity.
“I’d always wanted to be a M o u n t a i n e e r, ” she said, “so it was an easy decision for me. It was hard to juggle athletics and academics sometimes, but I graduated on time, and magna cum laude, in management science.
“Actually, I think being an athlete really helped me, because I knew exactly what I had to do, and it helped keep me focused, on schedule and detail oriented. Plus I met my husband, Vic, and we got married the day before we graduated!”
Howser worked as a computer programmer in Morgantown until 1987, when the family moved south. She became a stay-at-home mom to her daughter, Jennifer (24 and recently married), and son, Mark (a sophomore at Auburn), and has recently re-entered the workforce in the banking industry.
“It was such a wonderful event,” Howser said of the recent induction ceremonies at MHS. “Everything was exceptional, truly first-class. It was a pretty emotional experience for me. My mother passed in 1999, and I know she would’ve wanted to be there, but I was glad to be able to bring my father up” from his nursing home in Charleston.
“You know, it was really interesting,” she concluded. “Wa l k - ing through the school, and just coming home to Morgantown — you know, I’ve lived more of my life away from here, but Morgantown will always be ‘home’ to me — brought so many memories flooding back.
“In my speech, which was, by far, the most nervous part of the weekend for me, I recognized and thanked all my coaches and teammates, because none of this would’ve happened for me without them. Sometimes I think back on it all, and I can’t believe I actually played four years of Division I basketball. And I realize that, along with my parents, MHS gave me the foundation for everything in my life, and I’m grateful and humbled to be a part of the Hall of Fame. It’s a great honor.”