Why Playing For His Dad At Michigan Was The Right Choice For Jett Howard
Michigan Wolverines basketball landed 2022 Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy four-star shooting guard
— the youngest son of U-M head coach Juwan Howard — Wednesday afternoon, and to many, it had been a long time coming.
Rivals.com’s No. 35 overall player and eighth-ranked shooting guard chose the Maize and Blue over finalists Georgetown, Tennessee and NC State, all schools in which he visited. He enjoyed the recruiting process, weighed his options, then settled on Ann Arbor as his destination. In doing so, he picked an option that will provide him with an outstanding college experience, while preparing for the NBA level.
“I do think him enjoying the recruiting process and taking these visits to other schools actually helped him out along the way,” Nightrydas Elite coach Rasheed Wesley told TheWolverine.com. “And that’s one thing that his dad told schools when he got at Michigan was, don’t be afraid to recruit his son, which I thought that was huge.”
Jett is also the younger brother of Michigan sophomore guard Jace Howard, who has said he’s a ‘teammate first,’ rather than the coach’s son, and that his father pushes him just like he does any other player. Once he arrives on campus next summer, those same principles will help Jett, as well.
“Because his dad is the head coach at Michigan, he’s going to be coached, so it’s not going to be an easy deal,” Wesley said. “His dad is going to be tough on him, which is going to prepare him moving forward, not just on the basketball court, but off the court as his father has done so far.
“Juwan knows the role between father versus coach. And even just our personal experience, he sent me a text one day and said, ‘Hey, don’t be afraid to coach Jett.’ To me, that was huge because what I took from that was, if he messes up, get on him; don’t be afraid to get on him.
Added Wesley: “His approach to the game as a coach, first, is going to be huge for Jett. And he’s going to give him that tough love as a father. I’m assuming that, after those hard practices or those games, now it’s time to do in dad mode for a few minutes — that transition is going to be really smooth and easy.”
The addition of Howard to a top-five 2022 recruiting class is huge for reasons well beyond the family dynamic, too. One of the most versatile guard/wings in the country, Howard can score at all three levels and is especially prolific from three-point range. But don’t discount his defense, either, Wesley noted.
“He can guard one through three, and he’s fast and athletic enough to even guard fours, because he’s strong,” Wesley explained. “It’s just his ability to guard multiple positions.
“To be honest, Jett always could defend. But the thing is, I don’t think he had to defend, if that makes any sense.”
The light has gone on for Howard on defense, evidenced by his strong performance on that end of the floor during Peach Jam. His mentality was one Wesley hadn’t seen from the player before, and it was certainly appreciated.
“He challenged himself to want to guard [five-star] Dariq Whitehead of Team Durant, who’s committed to Duke. He challenged himself. I was proud that he stepped up and was ready to defend.
“Jett is actually unselfish. I think that he sometimes gets a bad rap for just being offensive minded, but he plays the game the right way. We had a team meeting at Peach Jam, and he admitted, coming into the tournament, his mindset was selfish. But after we had that meeting, he kind of got into that selflessness mode and turned some things around. As you know, we went on a good run.”
Make no mistake, though, he’s a high level offensive player. Despite his three-point stroke being uncharacteristically off the mark (5 for 20) during six Peach Jam contests, Howard scored 9.2 points on 60 percent from two-point range, grabbed 3.7 rebounds and dished out 2.7 assists per game.
One week later, Howard was tabbed as the best small forward at the NBPA Top 100 prospects camp, due in large part to some clutch shooting during scrimmage sessions.
“He can play the one, two or three,” Wesley said. “He can get it, push the ball, run the floor, spot up in transition, penetrate and kick. [Michigan’s] style of offense is great for him.
“I’ll take you back to another kid that I coached who was up at Michigan, Chaundee Brown. I think that he’ll be used in a similar situation that Chaundee was used, and as you see, it worked out well for Chaundee, because he’s currently on the Lakers. Jett will do well in that offense.”
Still, Howard’s strength is his basketball I.Q., which has been boosted greatly by his background of being exposed to the college and NBA games his entire life, with his father having played 19 years in the NBA and coached six seasons in the league before returning to Ann Arbor in 2019.
“Him deciding to go to Michigan, it’s going to be a great look, because he’s been around the game all his life, at a high level,” Wesley said. “I think that’s where he will be a great player, because his mindset right now, even as a high school kid, is at the next level — meaning at the NBA level.
“The game, to him, especially on the high school level, it slowed down. It may speed up a little bit, until he really gets adjusted to the college level, but he’s worked out with NBA players before. So his I.Q. is going to be his biggest strength going to Michigan as a freshman. As they say, he’s going to be ahead of the curve.”
While Howard’s choice to attend Michigan may have been easier than most top-end recruits, it hasn’t been a difficult one for high-level prospects to choose Juwan Howard and the Wolverines. He’s just the latest one to break down the door to play at Michigan, as former head man John Beilein would put it.
“Like I said before [in a previous interview with TheWolverine.com], if I had a kid that was being recruited by Coach Howard — no ifs, ands or buts — my son would play for coach, all day, any day,” Wesley said.
Jett Howard says he was set to commit to Tennessee this week before switching to Michigan
Because he is Juwan Howard’s son, because he is good enough to play for Michigan and Michigan wanted him, and because his brother was already on the roster, many assumed Jett Howard’s commitment to Michigan on Wednesday was inevitable.
In discussing his decision during an Instagram Live video, Howard said that on Monday he was planning to go to Tennessee. A conversation with his dad, who is Michigan’s head coach, and other family members changed his mind.
Howard is the fourth commit in Michigan’s 2022 class, which features all four-star prospects and is ranked third nationally.
That he declared himself a future Wolverine was, according to him, no guarantee.
Howard announced his top seven schools in August and visited his final four in September: North Carolina State, Tennessee, Michigan, and Georgetown.
On Wednesday’s Instagram Live with ESPN’s national recruiting director Paul Biancardi, Howard briefly discussed each visit. He talked about the beautiful campuses and great coaching staffs. He said he was sick during his visit to Michigan. “It was a little awkward here and there but it was awesome.”
Biancardi asked Howard what was going through his mind as he prepared to make his decision. “Me and my coach went over a list of the pros and cons of every school,” Howard said, seemingly referring to IMG Academy head coach Sean McAloon. “The coaching, the environment, the players that want to play with you, everything. We kind of broke that down.”
At that point, Howard made the announcement most recruiting experts and fans expected: “I’ll be continuing my academic and athletic career at the University of Michigan.”
Biancardi congratulated him before saying, “We talked a little bit ago and you told me how hard this decision was and how unsure you were just as of a couple of days ago. What tilted it? What changed it for Michigan?”
“Honestly, starting Monday, I was going to go to Tennessee,” Howard said. “I was locked on going to Tennessee. Then I just sat down with my dad and had like a heart to heart moment and he told me everything, really, that I needed to hear. He told me he trusted me and all the things he needs from me. I just trust him, so I really just believed in him and took the chance.”
Tennessee, coached by Rick Barnes, has the fourth-ranked recruiting class for 2021 (Michigan’s is second), but just one commitment so far for 2022.
On Oct. 5, Howard announced that he’d be making his college decision on Oct. 13. The exact timeline of that decision is unclear, but it seems it wasn’t finalized until very recently.
Asked how he broke the news to his parents, Howard said, “On the way to the airport I told my mom. I was about to leave to go back to IMG (in Bradenton, Florida) and I told ‘em. I was like, ‘Mom, I kind of just want to get this thing out the way.’ She was like, ‘OK, let’s do it. Let’s call the coaches. Let’s figure out what you want to do.’
“So she got my aunt on the phone and we kind of broke it down and figured out Michigan was the right place. So I told her, then we called the other coaches and informed them about what’s going to happen.”
He then called his dad, who is entering his third season as Michigan’s head coach. “My dad was super excited. He was going around the office in front of everybody like, ‘My son just committed to me.’ It was a good moment. It was nice.”
Juwan Howard’s first response upon hearing the news? “He started screaming, honestly,” according to Jett. “He was like, ‘Let’s go!’ You know he does his little ‘let’s go’ thing, then starts pumping his chest. He was just happy. It was a good moment. It was awesome. I didn’t really get the chance to tell my brother too. I’m just happy to play with my brother also.”
Jace Howard is a sophomore with the Wolverines. He, too, took other visits and carefully considered his options. The brothers will play together in Ann Arbor next season.
Jett is a 6-foot-7 forward ranked No. 37 in the 2022 class, per the 247sports composite. “He’s an elite shooter who you can’t leave open at any time,” McAloon, the IMG coach, told MLive on Wednesday. “Extremely good playmaker with the ball to create shots for himself or others. And in my opinion the best passer at his position.”
Howard told Biancardi that Michigan is getting a versatile, unselfish player who is a good teammate and cares most about winning. He said he wants to improve his left hand, his defense, and his communication.
He’ll develop those skills and more in his final season at IMG and then at Michigan under his father.
“He knows my game better than anyone else,” Jett said. “He knows the things I need to improve on as well, so that’s what’s most important.”
Top-50 prospect Jett Howard commits to play for dad Juwan Howard with Michigan Wolverines
While Michigan was always perceived as the favorite in Howard’s recruitment, the top-50 prospect also visited NC State, Tennessee and Georgetown.
“It was really hard. Harder than most people think,” Howard told ESPN. “I took visits and really liked the places and coaches. As of a few days ago, I was unsure. My mom and aunt played a big role as they came on the visits. They helped put things into perspective.”
Howard said his mother, Jenine, and aunt didn’t try to convince him to play at Michigan.
“Do what’s best for you,” he said of their advice. “They never leaned either way. They were so impressed by the other coaches and programs. I was, too.”
Juwan Howard wanted his son to go through the recruitment process like any other highly-rated prospect.
“My mom would tell me my dad told her the same things that he was telling me. He told me how much he believes in me as a player. That he will put me in the best position to succeed,” Jett Howard said. “What my dad said that really got my attention was, ‘We need you from day one. I know your game better than anyone else. If you were not my son, I would still recruit you.’ And, of course, I trusted him the most. He has developed me my whole life. Opportunities like this do not come around often.”
Howard finally made his college decision during a car ride with his mother recently.
“We had a lot of little conversations here and there. But we did not have family sit-downs. My mom was driving me to the airport, and I just came out and said, I am going to Michigan and I’m going to play for your husband,” he said. “Then I called my dad and told him. He started screaming ‘Let’s do it! I would have you supported you anywhere. Thanks for believing in our staff, and we need you.’ It sounds like a coach, but I knew it was my dad.”
A 6-foot-7 forward who plays at IMG Academy (Florida), Howard is ranked No. 41 in the ESPN 100 for 2022. In 12 games with the Nightrydas Elite on the Nike EYBL program in July, Howard averaged 11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
Howard has deep shooting range with excellent shot mechanics, preparation and balance. He has grown a few inches, which makes it easier for him to see the rim and harder for defenders to bother his shot. His jumper sets up his drive game, and his step-back jumper is one of his most effective shots. He plays with a scoring confidence that translates to his production. Howard’s playmaking abilities are sometimes overlooked because of his shot-making talent. He displays the vision to see the entire court when finding teammates.
He needs to continue to shape his frame and become a better ball handler, especially going against pressure and driving left.