Michigan Basketball: Juwan Howard targeting elite recruits is a good thing

(Photo by Manuela Davies/Getty Images)
(Photo by Manuela Davies/Getty Images) /

The critics of the newly appointed Michigan basketball head coach Juwan Howard are missing the point. No one is safe from the one-and-done’s.

When John Beilein was at the helm of Michigan basketball, the largest critique was his ability to bring in the elite recruits. No one doubted John’s ability to develop, how could they? Since 2014,  Beilein’s roster has consisted of six first-round draft picks and only one of them was ranked in the top 50 nationally coming out of high school (Mitch McGary, 28th nationally, class of 2012).

Beilein has the touch, he has the gift; he has the incredible ability to bring in three and four-star recruits and turn them into bonified stars at the collegiate level. John’s recruiting strategy of bringing in the coachable players and molding them into what they are today was successful, for him at least. He is elite in that aspect of the game.

The critique with Juwan is contrary to that of Beilein. Why is he targeting the top players? The guys who will just leave after one year.

Well, if your not gifted in development, you do what you know is best suited for your skills and talents. Howard’s strategy; target the top players from around the world and let them ball.

Juwan doesn’t claim to be the best coach in the world. He can’t because he’s never been a head coach before. In fact, the coaching philosophy he announced during his hiring speech consisted of we’ll see and I’ll let everyone have a voice. That stance portrayed by Howard was an uneasy one to swallow and yet we know now what he meant. He meant he’s bringing in the best coaches and aggressively targeting five-star basketball players to fill his roster, to win at with the Michigan basketball program that he so passionately cares about.

Why Juwan wasn’t gifted with John’s development what John wasn’t gifted with is Juwan’s elite playing ability.

Each man playing to their own strengths, a trait commonly found in successful people. Find your weakness and mitigate it, find your strength and exploit it.

What Juwan brings

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another according to the google dictionary definition. Who has more empathy than Juwan when speaking to the young men who take the court, one day hoping to fulfill their NBA dream; just as their head coach did.

Who better to tell those young men when to stay and when to leave than Juwan.

During his junior year, Juwan declared for the draft. He left the school he loved so much. He also came back and fulfilled his promise to earn a degree from Michigan, a degree he once said “means more than the money I’m making. It’s something I’ll have and put on the wall and always be proud of.”

Juwan was, according to the best of my recollection, the first college basketball player to declare for the draft with eligibility remaining and still walk the stage with a degree on time.

When Juwan walks through the door – or rather crouch’s through the door due to his massive height – and tells his story to the mother of a nation-wide top 50 recruit, it’s going to be very difficult to say no. He’s genuine and passionate and only wants the best for the school and those who attend as evidenced by his inability to control his emotions when accepting the gig.

So If you’re in the mindset that this is terrible for Michigan you’re missing the point. Turning into just another one-and-done school might happen but it doesn’t matter. Juwan wants to win and win from day one. He’s going to win until the day he’s no longer the David and Meredith Kaplan men’s basketball head coach.

When the Zion Williamson-type and LeBron Jr.’s come to Ann Arbor and leave after a year, don’t fret, for there are more coming.

And if you think it can’t work, wait to the end of the season to see how the Memphis experiment pans out. Penny Hardaway, the long-time NBA player and All-Star, took the reigns in Tiger town and inherited a team which was consistently bringing in classes outside the top 50 and in one off-season, gathered a class ranked No.1 in the nation.

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Go ahead and develop a kid who can defend Memphis’ 7-foot five-star James Wiseman. It’s not going to happen, or at least, Juwan’s hoping he doesn’t have to by amassing a band of his own superstars.