By: Ashlee Fincher
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Today, we continue our series named the S-Club Profile, focusing on former student-athletes and giving updates on what they have been up to since finishing their Samford playing careers. In this month’s edition, we highlight Savannah Hill Howard, who played women’s basketball from 2007 to 2011 and was on the first women’s basketball Southern Conference Tournament Championship team here at Samford.
Savannah grew up in Elora, Tennessee, and came to Samford to play basketball for Mike Morris late in the recruiting process. When asked what initially piqued her interest at Samford, she mentioned the immaculate landscaping that has become a pillar of the campus. The rolling green hills and Christian atmosphere were enough to pull the Tennessee native down to Sweet Home Alabama.
A member of the first women’s basketball Southern Conference Tournament Championship team at Samford, Howard reflects on her time in the program and the feelings involved with setting such a monumental precedent for an athletic program.
“It was definitely memorable,” Howard said. “I had never won something that big, and to be on the first team at Samford… we were very close knit. It was like a bunch of sisters; we spent so much time together and [the championship] brought us closer together. During that season, we were very in tune with each other and knew how each other worked.”
In talking about what she believes led them to winning the conference tournament, Howard believes that their relationships off the court are really what catapulted them to success.
Not only did Howard’s team win the championship in 2011, but the team won the conference championship again the following year.
“I think once you win a championship, you know what needs to be done,” Howard states. “The girls who won the year after I left definitely learned what it took and what needed to be done to do it again.”
But Howard’s success didn’t just occur her senior year.
As a freshman, Howard played in all 32 games, leading the team in rebounding, pulling down 4.6 boards per contest and ranking third in scoring, with an average of 9.8 points per game. Her sophomore year brought a new set of challenges as Samford transitioned out of the Ohio Valley Conference and into the Southern Conference, but Howard persevered and moved up to second in scoring. Her junior year she once again led her team in assists and rebounds and finished second in scoring. Howard was named to the SoCon’s All-Conference team, and helped her team score a postseason bid to play host to Ole Miss in the first round of the WNIT. It was there that Howard scored the game winning shot to push the Bulldogs to win by one point, 66-65.
Currently, Howard ranks 3rd in school history in scoring, 2nd in rebounding, 3rd in assists, 3rd in blocked shots, 1st in field goals made, 3rd in games played and 4th in games started.
In speaking with Howard, she talked about the precedent that was set back in 2011, and how it affects the current Samford women’s basketball team.
“Coaches have to deal with the whole turnover of players, needing to reset the program when new coaches come in, but they also have the pressure, a little bit, of the legacy,” Howard said. “They come in knowing what they are expected to do.”
When asked what Savannah would say to the present Samford women’s basketball team, she spoke about how much time you come in expecting to have in the program, but how fast four years goes by, and some of her own regrets.
“I wish I had maybe put more wholeheartedly into the program,” Howard said. “Sometimes you’re not always there mentally, and you have so much other stuff going on with school, missing family, it’s something you don’t realize until you get older. I wish I could tell them to be in the moment, leave it all on the floor, and really get to know your teammates. Get close with them, because they are your family for four years, and then y’all become so close afterwards.”
Savannah and her teammates remain close to this day. She and Emily London, former Samford women’s basketball player and Howard’s roommate for four years, still travel on vacation together. The team still manages to keep up together online and several from the first championship team try to get together at least once a year and go on vacation together. It is a huge testament not only to the culture of the women’s basketball program and their friendship, but the bond that Samford cultivates in its student athletes.
A 2011 graduate of the Ida V. Moffet Nursing Program, Savannah showed tremendous leadership both on and off of the court. A captain of the basketball team, Howard learned time management and leadership skills that helped her gain a roll as a lead charge nurse on the medical surgical unit floor. Now, Savannah has been promoted to the Vice Chief of Anesthesia at Advent Health Ocala in Florida.
Working in the healthcare sector in the midst of Covid, Savannah provided a little bit of insight into her role as the Vice Chief of Anesthesia, and her department’s experience throughout the pandemic. The first wave of Covid certainly came with challenges, 30 percent pay cuts, job terminations and a cut down on elective surgeries plagued the surrounding hospitals, but Advent Health saw minimal changes.
“We are still full force; a lot of people around us, 10-99 and travelers, didn’t have a job, so we are thankful to still have jobs.”
Under the direction of Howard, her team created an emergency intubation team in case the oasis team needed help, including the ICU doctors. Howard credits her time at Samford for the preparation to do what she is doing now.
“It’s not necessarily the same as a real-world job, but it does prepare you for meeting other expectations.”
For more information on the S-Club, contact Hal Langston at [email protected]. For giving opportunities, please contact Maggie Folker at [email protected].
Gallery: (10-13-2021) S-Club Profile: Savannah Hill Howard [hidden]