Michigan Wolverines basketball landed 2022 Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy four-star shooting guard Jett Howard — 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.