Photo courtesy of Jon Lopez/Nike
By David Cordova
During the NBPA Top 100 Camp in June at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, there many players that were being interviewed by media outlets throughout the country, and were asked about recruiting and their suitors.
Jace Howard mastered the interviews very well. The main reason for that is because he learned from the very best from a very young age. He is the son of former NBA player and Michigan “Fab Five” member Juwan Howard, who is ironically the current head coach of the Wolverines.
Just like his old man, the younger Howard has plenty of game on the court. The 6-foot-7 forward is a skilled forward that can put up plenty of points whenever he is on the floor.
Howard, who grew up in Miami, Florida, had this to say about the basketball culture in the state of Florida, “Basketball is very underrated in the state of Florida, in my opinion, we have most of the top prospects coming out. We have Scottie Barnes, Dudley Blackwell, myself, Vernon Carey, Jr., who I played with last year, so I feel like it’s one of the most underrated states in basketball, because we’re looked at as a football state, we just deserve more credit.”
Last season, Howard was part of a nucleus at the University School, a school based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that included, Carey, who is now entering his freshman season at Duke University, Lewis, who is now a senior at national powerhouse, Montverde Academy, and is rated as the No. 11 player in the Class of 2020, by ESPN, and lastly, Howard and his younger brother, Jett, who is a top prospect in the Class of 2022. ‘
Last season, the Sharks went 27-5 and won their second straight FHSAA Class 5A championship and earned an invite to the GEICO High School Nationals Tournament in New York City.
When asked about playing at the U-School, he replied, “Oh, U-School, it was a great experience last year, we won a state championship this past year, qualified for GEICO [Nationals], played in City of Palms, went all the way to the championship in Les Schwab [Invitational] in Oregon, learned a lot from Coach [Jim] Carr, learned a lot from my teammates, from top to bottom, from the starters from the last man on the bench. It was a great year, a great year of basketball.”
When asked about what lessons his father taught him, Howard replied, “He’s taught me to just have fun out there, just play hard, he’s always taught me, do whatever you feel like you want to do, don’t ever feel pressured to play basketball. When I was younger, I never had an interest in basketball, I wanted to do other things, but after watching the NBA Finals one year, I told my dad I wanted to play, and he said, ‘Okay,’ it was like the first time I told him, he was shocked, because that was never my interest. But he’s always supported me, doing what I love and this is what I love now, so he’s been there for me, and always had my back.”
When asked how it was like when the elder Howard was hired at Michigan, he replied, “It was a crazy, couple of weeks, I’m very happy for him, first of all, he’s put in so much work with the Miami Heat for the past couple of years, working his way up in the position [that he was in], he’s learned a lot from Spo [Erik Spoelstra], Pat Riley, and it’s a big school. He’s always talked about Michigan, he’s always been a Michigan fan. When that job opened up, we all looked at each other like, ‘This might happen,’ so, I’m very proud of him, as a son, I know he’s going to do a great job recruiting-wise, coaching-wise, just like being able to relate to players, because he was once a player.”
On his reaction when the elder Howard was finally hired to coach the Wolverines, he replied, “I was like, ‘Wow!’ It was like one of those days where you wake up in the morning thinking it was a dream, it was like it didn’t feel real. I was kind of laughing to myself, like, ‘My dad is the head coach at Michigan now, ‘cause I don’t know him as anything else but [my] old man, so it was crazy that day, I got a lot of texts, a lot of my friends was like hyping it up, it was an interesting day.”
Although Juwan Howard will be in Michigan, both of his sons are staying in Florida this school year, with Jace being a senior and Jett being a sophomore. When asked, Jace Howard, replied, “I’m a senior, [and] won back-to-back state championships, so I don’t want to leave my team hanging out to dry.”
At the present moment, he is being recruited by schools such as Northern Illinois, Saint Louis, Dayton, San Diego State and Brown. And also one other school, which happens to be Michigan. On August 15th, he was fortunate to be offered by the program where his father coaches.
When asked where the Wolverines are in his list of schools, he replied, “They’re up there. They’re up there for sure, because there’s a lot of in-home info [I receive] of Michigan, I guess. I’m going to be hearing it a lot, in the next couple of months, for sure, but my recruitment is still 100% open, I’m not going to say anything yet, I guess they’re definitely up there.”
He was also asked if the presence of the college coaches at the NBPA Top 100 Camp motivated him to go harder. His response was, “First, during the warmups, I look at the coaches, I see them, I’m like, “Oh, wow, that’s cool,’ because there will be some coaches that you see on TV as a kid, and now they’re at your games, so it’s kind of surreal for any player. During the game, I try not to focus on it, because when you focus on it too much, it’s going to kill your game and you’re not going to be locked in the game, and that’s going to be a problem when you’re just focusing on them. But it’s really cool thing to be here right now to see Roy Williams, Bill Self, all of these coaches, like Chris Beard, Buzz Williams, just naming a few out of all of the coaches that are here, [like] Shaka Smart. It’s unreal, because I watched them as a kid, and now they’re here. But I try to tune it out as much as possible.”
On the subject of a one-on-one battle between him and his brother, Jett, he jokingly replied, “Last time I won, it ended in a fight. He could definitely play, though, I’m not going to lie. He grew, he’s about 6-foot-5 now, and is going into his sophomore year. But he ain’t got me yet.”
Now that he’s a senior, Jace Howard plans on doing big things, like getting a third straight FHSAA Class 5A championship and also, pick the school of his choice. Wherever he goes, he will be a special talent. If it’s at an academic school such as Brown, he will definitely make waves in the Ivy League. But if he steps foot in Ann Arbor, just like his father did 28 years ago, he plans on making a statement alongside committed players like Isaiah Todd and Zeb Jackson. After all, time will tell what he does in the future.