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Where There's a Will: Former Tennis Standout Will Howells Quickly Taking to Pickleball

by Erik Tice on

Will Howells already has two gold medals to his name on the APP Tour thus far in 2024 and is quickly making a name for himself.

At the APP Punta Gorda earlier this year, Will and CJ Klinger won men’s doubles gold. This last weekend at the APP Sacramento, Howells took a men’s singles gold medal, defeating Jack Foster.

What's his background and how did he get into pickleball?

Get to know Will Howells ...

Growing Up and Tennis

Will grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and played almost every sport you can think of while growing up.

At the age of 13, he moved to South Florida to pursue a tennis career while staying with a host family. After that first year, his family moved to Florida with him. Howells started training under Nick Saviano and played on the junior circuit. At the time, Genie Bouchard was also a student of his. Howells credits a lot of his mental toughness and his overall confidence to his time spent with Saviano. 

After juniors, Howells was recruited and played for the University of Notre Dame. He went 45-18 in singles during his first two years and had a really unfortunate ankle injury during his junior year that derailed his pro tennis career.

Turning to Pickleball

Howells picked up a pickleball paddle for the first time in February of 2023.

He played some rec games and had a blast and then started going to the Delray Tennis Center for higher-level play. Almost a year later, Will is training with people like JW Johnson, Anna Bright, Christian Alshon, Gabe Tardio, Bobbi Oshiro, Millie Rane, and a lot of other great players that live in the area. His timeline in pickleball is almost identical to another player we profiled recently, Cason Campbell.

Howells still has a full-time job at an alcohol distribution company, which forces him to train at night for about two and a half hours. He knows this isn’t as much time as other pros get to train who don’t have other jobs, so he is extremely intentional about training.

Will always has a gameplan for training and makes sure he is super focused during that training so he doesn’t waste any time. In speaking with him, he used the term "quality over quantity" when he talked about practice.

Will has found a new joy and his competitiveness has been rekindled with pickleball. After college he lived in Milwaukee for a little while before moving to Florida. He basically completely stopped playing tennis at that time. With pickleball, he's able to put competitive pressure on himself again, which is relatable to so many people playing pickleball.

Whether you are a recreational player or a pro, many people play pickleball for the athletic competition.

I really believe in myself and I believe in my game. Whenever I go out there I step foot on the court believing I can win any match that I’m playing.

Will’s confidence comes through when speaking with him. When asked if he thought he would hear anybody say you’ve won two APP gold medals this early in your pickleball career, his response was, "Yeah, I did honestly. I really believe in myself and I believe in my game. Whenever I go out there I step foot on the court believing I can win any match that I’m playing."

Will’s confidence level is through the roof, but he is definitely not a cocky or arrogant kid. When he’s playing you can see the confidence and competitiveness, but he is able to keep his emotions in check. The 26-year old has a quiet demeanor, but when he is on the court you can see how focused he is. 

When asked about his goals this year for pickleball, Howells said he wants to find a way to go full-time. He is currently not sponsored by any paddle or apparel brand. (HINT HINT - Someone sign this guy RIGHT NOW!)

Pro Pickleball

Howells started playing tournaments in May of 2023 at the professional level. By August, he played in the APP Sunmed St. Louis Open with Nicolas Acevedo. They lost to eventual winners Andre Mick and CJ Klinger in three games, with the final game score of 12-14.

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Cason Campbell took the pickleball world by storm recently in Mesa, Arizona. Our Erik Tice recently caught up with the 17-year old about his transition from tennis, his “worn” hat and much more.

In the losers bracket they beat Yates and Hunter Johnson and finished eighth. In singles at the same tournament he lost to Yates Johnson, but then ran off three wins in the loser’s bracket for a 7th-place finish. Again, this was sixth months after picking up a pickleball paddle.

A few months later, at the APP Dallas Open in October, Howells played doubles with Johnny Goldberg, who Howells is very close with. Will said that Johnny has helped him tremendously in his pickleball career. They got a couple wins in the winner’s bracket, eventually losing to Andrei Daescu and Rob Nunnery.

In the loser’s bracket, they got big wins over Martin Emmrich and John Cincola, and then beat CJ Klinger and Ross Whittaker for a fourth-place finish. In mixed doubles at that same tournament, Howells got a seventh-place finish with Christa Gecheva. That run was highlighted by a win over Bobbi Oshiro and Andre Mick.

Will Howells
Like his shirt says, Will Howells is on the rise.

At APP Punta Gorda he played with CJ Klinger and won gold. The duo got a huge win over Hunter and Yates Johnson to make it to Championship Sunday. Unfortunately, Rob Nunnery suffered an injury during the championship match and had to retire, so Howells and Klinger won gold. At that same tournament, Will and Bobbi Oshiro got bronze, with a win over Parris Todd and Hunter Johnson.

In February of 2024, Howells played the PPA Desert Ridge. He smoked the singles qualifiers – winning that – and then played in the main draw. He got a win over Ryan Sherry in the main draw before losing to the eventual winner, Federico Staksrud. In doubles, he again played with Johnny Goldberg and got a win before losing to the Johns brothers.

Last week, Howells played the APP Sacramento Open. He got silver in men’s doubles with JW Johnson, eventually losing to Andrei Daescu and Gabe Tardio. In singles, he got wins over Chris Haworth and Jack Foster, winning his first singles gold medal on tour.

Howells is for sure on his way to being a regular name in pro pickleball. Although he is currently unsigned by the PPA or MLP, I have no doubt he is going to be medaling on a regular basis. 

One of the coolest things about Will is how genuine and nice he is. After his first singles win on tour at the APP Sacramento, he posted on his Instagram account about the win.

This is part of his post: "Despite having some amazing moments on the court in Sacramento, the highlight of the tournament was definitely Joshua’s excitement when I gave him my paddle after the singles final! Certainly a rewarding moment in my career."

Joshua was just a young fan who was cheering for Will in the final match. Afterward, Will gave him his paddle, signed it, and took pictures with him. 

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