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Orlando Magic rookie Jett Howard follows in his father Juwan Howard’s NBA footsteps

Son of the Michigan legend and two-time NBA champion pursues lifelong dream

It’s been nearly 20 years since Juwan Howard was selected in the NBA draft. And as nervous as the University of Michigan’s men’s basketball coach was on his memorable draft day, those butterflies pale compared with when he saw his son Jett get selected.

“The coolest part of the draft was when I first walked into the arena and then downstairs. All the draftees were lined up on the stage,” Juwan Howard recently told Andscape. “And they were taking a photo and I saw my son with them on the stage. I was like, ‘Damn, this is real.’ That’s when it hit me …

“I didn’t really get superemotional about it. I kind of stayed pretty calm. But I was nervous as hell before he got drafted.”

Juwan Howard was drafted fifth overall out of the University of Michigan by the Washington Bullets in 1994. After being coached by his father for one season at Michigan, Jett Howard was selected with the 11th overall pick by the Orlando Magic on June 22. The father and son shared a big hug after hearing Jett Howard’s name called at Barclays Center in New York.

The arrival of Jett Howard added to the long list of fathers and sons in the NBA. Like father like son: Juwan Howard also played for the Magic (2003-04).

“It means the world to me,” Jett Howard said after being selected by Orlando about his father’s impact. “These past few months, he’s been pushing me to places I’ve never been conditioningwise, and just to see my work pay off like that, it’s a beautiful moment. All praise to God, honestly.”

Juwan Howard may be most known as a member of Michigan’s storied “Fab Five” with Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. In the NBA, Howard averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in 1,208 games with the Bullets, Magic, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat over 21 seasons. The 1996 NBA All-Star also won two NBA championships with the Heat.

Jett Howard says he is certainly very familiar with his father’s NBA career.

“The older I get, the more I learn,” Jett Howard told Andscape. “I feel like I didn’t understand when I was younger and he was at the end of the bench. But now I’ve seen everything he’s done in college, everything he’s done in the league, it’s definitely high.”

Duke University forward Antonio Lang (right) pressures Michigan center Juwan Howard (left) during the first half of the 1992 NCAA championship game on April 6, 1992, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

David Longstreath/AP Photo

Michigan guard Jett Howard drives up court during a game against Iowa on Jan. 12 in Iowa City, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall/AP PHOTO

Jett Howard was born on Sept. 14, 2003, in Chicago. So how did the youngest of Juwan Howard’s four sons get the name Jett?

“I was watching MTV Cribs and John Travolta was on,” Juwan Howard said. “I remember seeing his plane and I was really big on airplanes. And on one of his airplanes, he talked about how he had a son by the name of Jett and I always liked that name. My wife, when she was pregnant with Jett, I said, ‘What about the name Jett?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, we can definitely go with that.’

“And then at the last minute when he was close to arriving during labor, I was kind of getting a little nervous about the name. So, I almost pulled the plug on the name. But I went back to it and my wife, and she was all for it.”

Jett Howard said his fondest memories of his father’s NBA career are when he played for the Heat from 2010-13 and was an assistant coach from 2013-19.

“Ray Allen was the one he used to rebound for right before games,” Juwan Howard said. “There were times at halftime where Ray would run upstairs and get some shots on our practice court. And I didn’t even know this, but Jett would rebound. Ray was the one he gravitated towards the most. Ray was great with the kids.”

Along with the Heat championship parades, Jett Howard’s most beloved Heat moment began with him almost being in tears at 9 years old during Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

The Spurs were up three points in the final seconds with a chance to clinch the title against a Heat team that included Juwan Howard as a seldom-used reserve. While Jett was sitting with his mother Jenine and older brother Jace, Heat fans were leaving the arena in anticipation of their team being eliminated. After Heat forward LeBron James missed a 3-pointer, his teammate Chris Bosh grabbed an offensive rebound and then passed it to Allen, who nailed a game-tying 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left. Miami went on to win Game 6 in overtime and Game 7 for its second straight title.

I remember seeing ticket holders we were sitting next to walking past us out the door and saying, ‘Good season,’ ” Jett Howard said. “And then they were trying to get back in after Ray Allen hit that shot. And I was about to cry beforehand. Well, we already won one championship. So, I was like, ‘Well at least we won one, but I was still, like, it’s over with. I felt like they might have broken up the team after that. But after Ray hit that shot, everybody was reenergized and ready. It was crazy.”

Michigan head coach Juwan Howard (right) talks to guard Jett Howard (left) during a game against Michigan State on Jan. 7 in East Lansing, Michigan.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Juwan Howard said he realized that his son could be special after he helped the NSU University School in Davie, Florida, defend its state title in 2019 as a freshman. Three of his son’s teammates went on to the NBA: Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes, Utah Jazz forward Taylor Hendricks and Washington Wizards center Vernon Carey.

Jett Howard was ranked 44th overall in ESPN’s Top 100 list for the Class of 2022. The 6-foot-8 forward turned down Florida, Georgetown, LSU, North Carolina State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt to play for his father at Michigan. Howard was Michigan’s second-leading scorer, averaging 14.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2 assists in 29 games as a freshman last season. On March 23, the 2023 All-Big Ten third-team selection entered the NBA draft with the blessing of his father.

“I feel like people misunderstood me in terms of me wanting to go to the next level and thinking I was trying to rush that process,” Jett Howard said. “But I’ve always wanted to play professionally. I’ve always wanted to put on that jersey. If my dad told me to come back another year, I probably would’ve.

“It being my dream is the reason I came out. This has always been my main dream. But you actually have to be honest with yourself and ask people if you’re ready. My dad said I’m ready now.”

One reason Juwan Howard is happy to see his son go to Orlando is because he is very familiar with coach Jamahl Mosley and Jeff Weltman, president of basketball operations. Mosley was a player development coach with the Nuggets during Howard’s first stint in Denver when Weltman was assistant general manager.

“Jeff turned around the Denver Nuggets and also the Milwaukee Bucks,” Juwan Howard said. “I was happy that my son is around people who I have been [around]. Jamahl has developed some of the best, like Luka [Dončić]. Jamahl is a great dude, but also has a lot of basketball knowledge.”

“My connection started back with Juwan in my beginning days with Denver. He came to training camp and I just admired his professionalism, his teaching, his toughness and treatment of everyone around him. It was so good for me to see that as a young coach coming into the league from a true veteran in the game,” Mosley told Andscape:

Orlando Magic guard Jett Howard plays against the Detroit Pistons during the first quarter of a 2023 NBA summer league game at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 8 in Las Vegas.

Candice Ward/Getty Images

In his third game, Jett Howard had his best game of the NBA summer league on Wednesday with 22 points and four 3-pointers in an 82-80 overtime loss against the New York Knicks. Mosley likes what he has seen so far from the rookie.

“Jett has such a great basketball IQ and feel for the game,” Mosley said. “He has had great coaching his whole life and he loves to work and loves the game. It’s great to have him here.”

Jett Howard isn’t the only Michigan newcomer to the NBA this season. The Atlanta Hawks selected Kobe Bufkin with the 15th overall pick in the draft and the Los Angeles Lakers signed Colin Castleton to a two-way contract. Juwan Howard now has six former players in the NBA, including his son, Bufkin, Castleton, Magic forwards Caleb Houstan and Franz Wagner and Detroit Pistons forward Isaiah Livers.

Juwan Howard attended the summer league in Las Vegas this week to watch his former players.

“It’s been four years out since I went to coach in college and to help develop all of the kids that have played for my program,” Howard said. “And then to see like, six of them in the NBA, that that was always their goal. And to have some imprint on helping them reach their goals, helping them reach their dreams and making a reality, I’m definitely proud of it.”

As part of a larger partnership with the YMCA, Wilson will be making a donation to local YMCA’s in the NBA team markets of Jett Howard, Houston Rockets rookie Cam Whitmore and Brooklyn Nets rookie Jalen Wilson at a minimum donation of $5,000 each. The athletes raised $100 for each point scored and $50 for each assist during NBA Summer League with the potential max of $10,000 donated by Wilson. After Summer League concludes, Wilson will visit local YMCA’s in Orlando, Houston and Brooklyn, surprising young members with athlete appearances, basketball clinics and check presentations.

“I’m looking forward to calling Orlando home, where I can start making a positive impact on local youth,” Howard said. “My aim is to serve as an uplifting influence and a relatable role model for them.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.