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Howard University basketball program losing two top guards

James Daniel and James ‘JT’ Miller are trying to get into a major program under the graduate transfer rule

When Howard’s James Daniel missed all but two games this past season to injury after leading the nation in scoring the previous year, it was his roommate, James “JT” Miller, who picked up a lot of the offensive slack and often emerged as the best player on the court for the Bison.

With each having a medical redshirt year, Daniel and Miller are both eligible to return to Howard next season.

But both players announced their intentions to leave the Bison under the graduate transfer rule that allows student-athletes who earn their degree to transfer and play immediately, making it likely the two have played their final games in a Howard uniform.

“Do I like the rule? No, I don’t,” said Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry. “What’s happening now is that if major programs find a hole, they just recruit mid-majors like ours and take away the talent we’ve developed. Instead of school providing an incentive to stay, they now have an incentive to leave.”

The incentive for Daniel and Miller? Neither was recruited by major schools out of high school. But both have proven that even though they played at Howard, they were capable of putting up big numbers regardless of the competition.

Howard Bison guard James Miller (33) shoots on Michigan Wolverines guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12) in the second half at Crisler Center.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The result: Daniel, a high-scoring point guard, has been contacted by schools representing the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and SEC.

Miller, who scored 30 points in back-to-back games against Georgetown and American this past season, has heard from mostly mid-major conferences and several high major schools.

“Going to a program that’s bigger gives me a better shot of both getting to the tournament and doing the things I want to do later in life,” said Miller, who would like to play professionally after college. “Playing on a national stage in the NCAA tournament is a lifelong dream that I want to experience.”

While there were indications that Daniel would use the graduate transfer option, Miller’s decision caught Howard by surprise. Before he made up his mind to explore other opportunities, Miller went to Nickelberry for his blessing.

“Even though he said he didn’t think it would be in my best interest to do this, he was open-minded about what I wanted for me,” Miller said. “I was getting calls from schools right after I put my name on the graduate transfer list. I can get five school visits, and I plan on taking them all.”

Daniel will make all of his visits as well. His criteria for a school: a high major and within decent traveling distance for his family in Hampton, Virginia.

“I only want to go to a place that fits my game,” he said. “I also want to go to a place where my family can see me play.”

While Miller seems determined to go, Daniel left a sliver of hope that he could return to Howard if things didn’t work out with another school.

“Yes, Howard has a chance,” Daniel said. “But if I have a chance to go to a high major, that would be my goal.”

While Nickelberry would like both players back, he is already moving on.

“We have one of the best 2-guards in the league in Charles Williams, and we have a guy I believe will be a strong candidate for rookie of the year in R.J. Cole,” Nickelberry said. “We have to move forward as if they’re not coming back. “

Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at Andscape. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright and watching the Knicks play a MEANINGFUL NBA game in June.