The Wolverine

June-July 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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6 THE WOLVERINE JUNE/JULY 2020 The leader must aim high, see big, judge widely, thus setting himself apart from the ordinary people who debate in narrow confines. — Charles de Gaulle J uwan Howard has never and will never put narrow confines on Michigan bas- ketball. He sees its potential as limitless, and for good reason. The school and the sport took him from poverty in Chicago to All-American heights in Ann Arbor. It opened the door for a quarter-century career in the NBA, as a player and coach. That combination ushered him into prosperity and a life of which many can only dream. The school where it be- gan still brings him to tears. Don't expect him to aim low when it comes to his program. He is going to recruit the abso- lute best high school perform- ers he can. Big swings mean big misses. No doubt, Howard swung for the fences on a pair of prep superstars this year. The excitement surround- ing them lasted nearly to college basketball's late signing period, then plummeted with their late-game swerves in other directions. What's left? One of the very best recruiting classes in the Big Ten, fea- turing some components that will drive the Crisler-Centered Wolver- ines in years to come. From 7-2 freshman center Hunter Dickinson to 5-11 graduate transfer Mike Smith, Howard demonstrated the ability to go out and bring in talent. His most recent addition — Wake Forest transfer Chaundee Brown — underscores Howard's ability to plug potential holes in a hurry. The rising senior could dramati- cally impact the Wolverines in the 2020-21 season, provided his NCAA appeal for immediate eligibility goes through. When you can go out and hang 24 points and nine rebounds on Duke in a win over the Blue Devils, Michigan State isn't going to scare you one bit. "I hadn't known or met Coach Howard prior to this, but quickly realized he's such a great guy and all-around amazing person," Brown said. "He's serious on the court, but off the court I knew we'll be able to joke around. "I need to be with a person like that because that's how I am, too — I like to have fun and laugh off the court, but on it, it needs to be all business. Michigan just felt like home to me, and that's why I needed to make that move. "I still can't believe I'm coming to Michigan." At the same time, it's the Dickin- sons, the Zeb Jacksons, the Terrance Williamses and the Jace Howards that will provide the longer-term mark on the program. They're in it for the long haul, and that is huge, Michigan radio play-by-play man Brian Boesch observed. "College basketball is better when you have juniors and seniors who are making big-time plays and who have developed," Boesch argued. "Yes, Michigan is going to be able to recruit some freshmen who are go- ing to have some big-time impacts. We saw it from Franz Wagner, this past season, who was really impressive. "Juwan Howard is going to get some guys in here who will make big impacts as fresh- men. But this team went as se- niors Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske and junior Isaiah Livers carried them." It is like that in a lot of strong programs, Boesch pointed out. "You look up at East Lan- sing. Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman made college basketball better this year," he said. "[Iowa's] Luka Garza and other guys throughout college hoops did that. "You're trying to get the best players possible. Will we look back in three years and say, okay, what was more important for the program — one year of Josh Christopher or three years of Hunter Dickinson? Three years of Zeb Jackson or four?" Howard took a shot at all. He will continue to do so. It is nothing but good for a program that fueled his own dreams. *** Normally, excitement over college football would be building right now. This time around, the focus isn't on who will play the best. It's more about who will play at all. U-M President Mark Schlissel de- livered a sobering message May 24 in The Wall Street Journal: that group might not include Michigan. "If there is no on-campus instruc- tion then there won't be intercol- legiate athletics, at least for Michi- gan," Schlissel said. He also put forward the notion that there might not be college ath- letics anywhere in the fall, due to COVID-19. A worst-case scenario, designed to manage expectations? Maybe. But the way 2020 has gone so far, banking on best cases is dangerous business. ❑ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB _ Wolverine. WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Juwan Howard Will Keep Aiming High Given Howard's affinity for the University of Michigan, he is unwilling to settle for less, especially on the recruiting trail. PHOTO BY BRANDON BROWN

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