Jace Howard Loves Playing For His Dad, But He's A 'Teammate First'
Michigan basketball freshman forward Jace Howard is living out his dream ... and then some.
He grew up in a Michigan household, with his dad, Juwan Howard, having been a member of the Fab Five in the early 1990s. Jace hoped to play for the Wolverines one day. That came to fruition, officially, this summer when he arrived on campus as a part of the team after signing his scholarship papers in the spring.
"These past couple months, since I arrived in June, have been a dream come true, I have to say," he said. "I’ve always had Michigan in my house from the day I can remember, with seeing Michigan paintings on the wall or old Fab Five photos in bathrooms and stuff like that."
But he never thought his dad would be his head coach.
Juwan had never coached Jace in a traditional setting before this year, having been a 19-year NBA veteran and an assistant coach for the Miami Heat following his playing days. Jace said there's been times where he's pleasantly surprised at what he's seeing from his old man.
“To tell you the truth, he’s a pretty damn good coach,” Jace said. “He has some good insights and he’s a very detailed coach. I never knew some of the stuff he would say, I just step back like, ‘Wow, okay.’ Stuff you’ve never seen before. So it’s been very cool in that aspect to see his basketball mind and learn from his basketball mind.”
Players Jace looked up to from afar are now the ones helping him learn and grow, up close and personal, every day.
"Being a fan, I watched them throughout my whole high school career," Howard said. "Seeing players like [senior forward] Isaiah Livers and [senior guard] Eli Brooks now as my teammates — guys I’m going against in practice, guys that are willing to help me and put me under my wing — it’s just been a great experience."
A three-star recruit out of Hollywood (Fla.) University School, Howard is adjusting to the the college game, just like every other freshman in the country. The playbook is much longer than in prep ball, Howard explained, and the speed of the game is much faster.
"I would say the areas that have been the biggest jump for me is probably the mental aspect of the game," Howard said. "Practices are longer, your schedule is more tight with school and basketball, so that is probably the biggest adjustment.
"The pace has picked up a lot from high school. I played at a pretty high-level high school basketball, but obviously that high level doesn’t compare to Michigan right now in the Big Ten. This is a great team we have. Probably the pace, for sure."
But he has a good foundation already built. His teammates have lauded the energy he brings on defense and how he does the "little things" the right way. Howard added that he fits right in when it comes to defending and competing at this level.
"Defense is something I’m really passionate about," Howard said. "I played football when I was younger, so that aggressiveness that I have inside me, I’m able to showcase it on the floor.
"The higher level of basketball that I’m in now, it’s way more competitive. That’s something that I feel very comfortable in, that’s something that I feel like I thrive in — competitiveness. My shooting has come along very well, so that’s dope too."
Although he's the head coach's son, Howard insisted he's a member of the team, first and foremost.
"I just wanted to let them know that I’m a teammate before I’m his son once I step in the PDC [William Davidson Player Development Center]," Howard said.
"'I’m going to have your guys’ back before I’m his son. Your trust is more important to me than his at the moment.'"
Howard admitted he's often on the receiving end of some playful jabs from teammates, since he is the son of their head coach, but he takes it in stride.
"I had a coach’s son in high school and we used to make fun of him, too. It’s like the tables have turned," Howard said with a smile.
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