Howard carries strong experience, relationships to MU

Markus+Howard+can+play+both+point+and+shooting+guard.

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Markus Howard can play both point and shooting guard.

When Marquette assistant coach Stan Johnson officially became a member of Steve Wojciechowski’s staff in May 2015, there were plenty of phone calls to make.  His first one, however, was to a sophomore point guard at Perry High School in Gilbert, Arizona, that he heavily recruited while at Arizona State University

His name is Markus Howard.

Johnson started recruiting Howard at Arizona State during his freshman year at Perry, and Howard verbally committed to the Sun Devils the subsequent summer.  Even after Howard reopened his commitment in March of his sophomore year, Johnson and Howard’s relationship continued.

“(Johnson) was the main reason why I committed (to Arizona State) so early in my recruiting, so he’s like family to me,” Howard said.  “Even as I’m here now, he’s really been that one guy I can go to with anything I have.”

“I’ve known him forever,” Johnson said.  “Dating back to my time at Arizona State, we developed a great relationship to the point where he allowed us to recruit him when I got to Marquette. … I’ve had a long relationship with him and I really feel like it’s a going to be a good relationship.”

“(Johnson) wouldn’t miss any of my games over the summer, so he’s the one coach I’d say literally came to every one of my games,” Howard said.  “I’m fortunate for that.”

Throughout Johnson and Howard’s extensive relationship on the recruiting trail, Johnson could see better than any other coach the type of player Howard is.

“The biggest compliment I can give Markus is he’s always taking advantage of what you’ve given him,” Johnson said. “Regardless of how many minutes he plays, he always finds a way to impact the game in a winning way.”

Wojciechowski’s relationship with Howard does not date as far back as Johnson’s, yet he also been impressed by Howard’s maturity and demeanor.

“For him to be so young and to act with the maturity that he has is really impressive,” Wojciechowski said. “I would’ve been sinking (as a 17-year-old at a Division I program) and Markus gets better every day.”

Howard’s maturity helped him play in a plethora of highly-competitive environments including the Las Vegas Prospects, one of five Nike EYBL teams in the West region.  He also donned red, white and blue, winning gold medals twice at the FIBA U17 World Championships for Team USA.

“It’s a blessing to be able to represent USA and my country as well as the people who have been in the program so long,” Howard said. “It was truly an honor not only to win it once, but twice.”

There, Howard showed off an impressive array of talent, averaging 11.9 points per game on an uber-efficient 49.2 percent shooting from the field and 48.6 percent shooting from behind the arc.

The only members of Team USA to score more than Howard were Collin Sexton and Gary Trent Jr., whom ESPN considers tenth and eighth, respectively, in the Class of 2017.  Howard’s team-leading 3-point percentage was more than 20 percent above Team USA’s next highest 3-point scorer.

Those numbers certainly are not a product of lack of other talent on the team, which had three of ESPN’s top ten 2017 recruits and four of ESPN’s top 13 2018 recruits.  The team also outscored the second-best scoring team, Canada, by over 16 points per game.

As Howard put up these video game-like numbers, Johnson and Wojciechowski both watched all his games.

“He did a terrific job of not only his play, but I thought he was a great leader for that team,” Wojciechowski said. “He was a guy that gave that team some much-needed leadership, and when I talked to the coaches as they came back, they certainly reiterated that.”

“(Howard) played terrific,” Johnson added. “He’s always able to rise to the occasion, and I thought he did that this summer with USA Basketball.”

Howard, a 4.0-student in high school, skipped his senior year to play at Marquette.  While many Division I student-athletes would struggle with the change in academic pace, Howard said that he’s been well-prepared for college athletically and academically.

Outside the classroom and on the hardwood, Howard also exhibits a sense of preparedness from his experience with FIBA, Las Vegas Prospects and Findlay Prep, a school famous for producing basketball players.

“It helped me a lot playing against those players in practice every day, and it translated to here,” Howard said. “It helped a lot.”

As challenging as being the youngest player on Marquette by 450 days can be, Howard is making the most of learning from a former point guard in Wojciechowski.

“Having a guy who’s a great basketball mind like Wojo, who knows the game so well and been around has been a total blessing,” Howard said.  “To learn from him and to be at the tutelage of him and all the other coaches has been great as well.”

Howard also does not expect his youth to get in the way of having a major role on this team.

“I think I’m going to be a leader on this team,” Howard said. “(I am going to) just try to command the team and the point guard position, try to bring everything I can to scoring when needed to, get others involved, bring a presence defensively and lead vocally.  There’s a lot of things I can do on and off the ball with this team.”

“He is one of our best 3-point shooters,” Wojciechowski said.  “When he’s got an open shot, we expect him to shoot it and we feel like he’s going to make a lot more than he misses.”

While his 3-point opportunities seem certain, his position on this guard-heavy roster remains up in the air.

“I can play on the ball and off,” Howard said.  “I’m comfortable playing the two position, but the coaches are really focusing in more on the one position, so I’m really just practicing each and every day at both positions.”

“I think he can do both pretty well,” Wojciechowski said.  “We’re still trying to figure out exactly where he will thrive the most in this first year, which is — I don’t care who you are — being a freshman is a learning curve.”