Written By: Stan Becton
Making it into the Carnegie Mellon University men's basketball records book is a difficult feat. A team during a season will rarely have a player etch his name in team history. Yet, senior guards Zach Howarth and Colin McNeil both have done so during the Tartans' 2019-20 season.
For Howarth, he reached the 1,000-point mark eight games into the season and has climbed the scoring chart with each game. For McNeil, he has broken the career assist record, single-season assist record and single-game record for CMU while tying the University Athletic Association (UAA) single-game assist record this season alone.
For both players, who arrived at Carnegie Mellon in the same recruiting class, reaching such heights never crossed their minds when they first stepped foot on campus.
"Coming in at the time, I didn't know that we didn't have a returning point guard; that changed everything as we were able to play early as freshmen," said Howarth. "I didn't expect everything that would happen over the four years."
"I can't say it's been what I thought it would've been. We were fortunate to play freshman year and get some of that experience to use later down the line," said McNeil.
Early experience for Howarth and McNeil benefited them as they both averaged roughly 23 minutes per game as freshmen. Their significant contributions early on and throughout their tenure as Tartans placed them in a position entering this year where the records were a reasonable aim without added pressure.
"Early on in the year I had a few games where I had a ton of assists and it seemed like that was what was working for us since we had a good start to the year," said McNeil. "I kept playing the same game I was already playing. I wasn't focused on it but I had it in the back of my mind."
"The big thing with scoring a lot of points is reaching the 1,000-point mark and I was pretty close to it coming into the season. I was very comfortable in thinking that I could come in and have the season I have had," said Howarth.
Howarth and McNeil have been able to play to their strengths this year on the court as they push for both individual and team success. Their strengths of passing and scoring have allowed them to feed off of each other on the court.
"As we've gotten older, there's no ambiguity on the court anymore as to what I think he can do and what he thinks I can do," said McNeil. "Because we play such different games, we can feed off each other and help each other out."
In the four-year span Howarth and McNeil have had as Tartans, they have had numerous battles on the practice court, bringing the best out of one another. The competitive spirit has also helped the senior guards be the best leaders they can be for the team off the court.
"It's very easy as you become a senior to sit back and not help as much. I thought it was really important to help our younger guys find their way, especially since we benefited from guys who did the same for us," said Howarth.
"Even more so than basketball, we try to be on time to everything and teach the small things to our teammates. We try to help the younger guys get to where they want to be. We've put a huge emphasis on it," said McNeil.
Howarth and McNeil's leadership is reflected in the respect their teammates give them as well as their character. They both have been able to balance their athletic and academic performance at a high level allowing them to secure future jobs. Upon graduation, Howarth will be working at Morgan-Stanley and McNeil will be working at Ernst & Young.
However, before their time at Carnegie Mellon officially comes to a close, Howarth and McNeil will get to play one last time in front of the Tartan fans against Case Western Reserve University on Saturday, February 29. As they step on the court for the last time and etch their names in Carnegie Mellon men's basketball history, they believe they have been able to leave a legacy that has impacted the program and university for the better.
"It'd be nice to be remembered as some guys who came in and left an impact on the program. Maybe it wasn't more wins, but it was the culture of the program," said Howarth.