Juwan Howard Jr. signs with WMU

by J. Gamble

Got word last night, straight from an assistant at Western Michigan University, that 6-5 Pershing High school wing Juwan Howard Jr. has committed to play basketball at WMU starting in 2010.

Howard Jr., a  senior who plans to carve his own identity with a less-heralded Michigan team than the Fab Five Wolverine squad his dad starred on, verbally committed to the Broncos on Monday. I spoke with Howard Jr. and his assistant coach Wydell Henry yesterday shortly after the decision was made.

“I chose WMU because I felt like I have a chance to play right way with senior guard David Kool leaving,” said Howard Jr., who averaged 14 points and 8 boards for a loaded Pershing squad last season which is now looking to repeat as Michigan Class A state champs.

Henry says Howard Jr. is a perfect fit for a Broncos program that plans to emphasize the strengths of its wing players. While WMU couldn’t be happier with his selection, Henry added that bigger Div I programs are missing out on a player that has NBA pedigree and is only getting better. “The bigger schools questioned his athleticism,” said Henry, “but Juwan is a versatile player who can rebound well and is becoming a great shooter.”

Henry says the older Howard, who just signed with the Trail Blazers, heard many of the the same criticisms—unathletic, lacking lateral quickness—but like his dad, Howard Jr. compensates with a super-high basketball I.Q., sound fundamentals and skills.

Howard Jr. isn’t worried about those other schools. He chose Western Michigan over Drake, IPFW, Fairfield, Central Michigan and Seattle. Howard Jr. will be joining fellow Pershing alum Demetrius Ward, a sophomore and the Broncos projected starting point guard for this season. Howard Jr.  has known Ward since the seventh grade, and after attending the WMU football game on Saturday said the school, “felt like home.”