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Jett Howard ready to play for dad at Michigan, even with potential hecklers

MLive Ann Arbor logo MLive Ann Arbor 6/23/2022 Andrew Kahn, mlive.com

Jett Howard has prepared for playing for his dad at Michigan. He had many conversations with his high school coach, who once played for his dad. He’s thought about how he’ll handle criticism at practice and heckling during road games.

“I think he’s as prepared as can be,” IMG Academy head coach Sean McAloon said. “But you’re never really prepared for it until you get in that water.”

Howard is about to dive in. He’s set to arrive in Ann Arbor this weekend along with the rest of Michigan’s highly touted freshman class.

Howard is a 6-foot-7 guard ranked No. 39 among 2022 recruits per the 247sports composite. His offensive skills earned him that ranking. His outside shooting, driving, and passing are all well above average for a player entering college.

He played high school ball in Florida, including the past two years at national power IMG, showing off his skills against elite competition and at a couple of postseason all-star games. He was the MVP of the Iverson Classic after scoring 20 points.

“Offensively, he can do some things that other kids just can’t do, especially shooting the basketball and creating shots, while still making the right play,” McAloon said.

Howard took his senior year seriously, putting in the necessary work in the weight room and on the court. He improved his left hand and rebounding. The game slowed down for him. He needed to get better defensively and did. Before getting to IMG, he was an adequate on-ball defender, but didn’t understand how to apply the finer points of defense: rotations, helping teammates, communicating.

Both Howard and McAloon said Howard can still grow as a defender. “I think his dad will make sure that he gets there,” McAloon said.

Indeed.

Juwan Howard, a star for the Wolverines in the 90s, is entering his fourth season as Michigan’s head coach. His son Jace will be a junior on the team, and he said last season that his dad is a bit tougher on him in practice than his teammates.

That seems to be the norm for any father coaching his son. “If there’s anyone to choose from mistake-wise, you almost go at your son first,” McAloon said. “So nobody sees it from the inside as, ‘He’s soft on his son.’”

“I think it’s going to be tough,” Howard said about playing for his dad. “He’s obviously hard on me, but in a good way. Coach Mac, he was just telling me don’t get frustrated and just be coachable and understand the purpose behind (comments), and not always listen to the tone but the message. At the end of the day, that’s your dad. Kids don’t really want to listen to their dad but I understand he has a lot of knowledge about of the game, so I’m going in with an open mind.”

Howard almost decided to play college ball elsewhere — at Tennessee — before ultimately choosing Michigan. He’ll face an interesting dynamic at practice but also in opposing Big Ten arenas.

McAloon talked to him about the environments he might face, the “Dad-dy’s bet-ter” chants, and how he’ll have to be mentally tough.

“I can’t wait,” Howard said. “I like stuff like that. I love to go into away arenas and hear ‘daddy’s boy’ and stuff like that because that’s gonna make me play harder. I’ve already been to a few games and I see how they treat my brother. I like that stuff.”

Howard should make a case for immediate playing time, potentially as a starter. Michigan lost last season’s starting shooting guard and small forward.

“I don’t know how you can keep him off the floor,” McAloon said.

Howard and his fellow freshmen make up the 10th-best recruiting class in the country. He knows them all pretty well. He called Gregg Glenn III, another Floridian, his best friend. Howard has known him and Dug McDaniel since fourth grade, and spent time with Tarris Reed Jr. at the Jordan Brand Classic and Iverson Classic this spring.

After spending his entire life rooting for Michigan, Howard will put on a uniform and try to help the program win games. It’s a blessing, he said.

“I care so much about the Michigan fan base and just Michigan in general,” he said. “I remember sitting there as a kid just wanting Michigan to win so bad. I was nervous every game, hyped whenever they won. You saw it when we were in the stands in Atlantis (in 2019), how much that meant to me and my brother.

“I’m happy to be able to play for a team I like and care about.”

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit mlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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