Home/News/Michigan, under new head coach and former Wolverine Fab Five player Juwan Howard, went from unranked to No. 4 in the national collegiate poll, with top-ranked Louisville ahead of them Tuesday night at the Cardinals’ court, with both at 7-0′
Michigan, under new head coach and former Wolverine Fab Five player Juwan Howard, went from unranked to No. 4 in the national collegiate poll, with top-ranked Louisville ahead of them Tuesday night at the Cardinals’ court, with both at 7-0′
By Arnie Leshin
Michigan hiring former Fab Five JuwanHoward as its head basketball coach has certainly hit the spot, which is now as the No. 4 ranked team in the college polls released Monday. This, after winning its first four starts and unranked heading into the tough Battle for Atlantis played in Bahamas Nassau.
But after first disposing of Iowa State, then stunning 6th ranked North Carolina in the semifinals, then 8th ranked Gonzaga in the championship game, Howard’s initial team is off to a 7-0 start, matching Kansas in 1989 for the biggest jump from being unranked in the 20-year history of the AP poll.
Tuesday night, Howard, whose only previous coaching experience was as an assistant coach of the NBA’s Miami Heat for seven seasons, takes his team to Louisville, which is 7-0 and in the top spot after first Kentucky and then Duke lost.
This is a Wolverine team that graduated its top three scorers, but Howard appears to be a welcome sight in Ann Arbor. It might not possess the athleticism, the flashy play, the swagger, and the classy fashion look, but it certainly has looked impressive, especially in downing the Tar Heels by 8 and the Zags by 18. These are two tournament-tested programs, and Iowa State is also up there on the court.
Senior point guard Zavier Simpson, who stands at 6-feet but plays bigger, is leading the country at 9.7 assists a game. If not for his 7-1 senior teammate Jon Teske, he would have been the Most Valuable Players in the Bahamas. But Teske was out of sight, tossing in 23 points inside on follow ups of missed shots, adding a pair of 3s, bringing down 14 rebounds, and blocked six shots, plus defense was awesome, and credited Howard with tips on preparing him to play well against strong front lines like North Carolina and Gonzaga.
Teske is averaging 16.7 points per game, just behind versatile Larry Livers’ team-leading 17.0, with Simpson next at 16.3. Then there’s Eli Brooks at 12.9 and David DeJulius at 9.0, and that’s a balanced offense mixed in with good bench help. It has produced offense both inside and outside, handled the ball well behind Simpson, and has sparkled with smart defense that results in takeaways.
The early success of this team has also brought the Fab Five back together, with Jalen Rose, after the hiring of Howard, saying he no longer is upset with the Michigan basketball program, and Chris Webber no longer chrisitizing Rose. And the other Fab Five players, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, saying they are totally overjoyed to have Howard coaching the Maize and Blue.
Webber is presently a basketball analyst for TNT, Rose in the same role at ESPN, King is the director of athletes at Ecorse Middle School District in Austin, Tex., where he played his high school ball, and Jackson is coaching basketball at his alma mater, also in Austin.
And Howard still does the Cabbage Patch Dance, which he initially broke in when the 1992 Michigan team defeated arch-rival Ohio State to reach the NCAA Final Four. Now, after the big win over Gonzaga, he stood in front of his team and again let go with the dance; his fists clenched, arms in front of him, swinging in a circular motion, and the Wolverine team and its fans in back of its bench, loved it, as they loved hoisting the championship trophy.