Charlottesville, Va. — It’s been roughly three decades since Michigan coach Juwan Howard burst onto the Chicago high-school basketball scene.
But according to Chicago Whitney Young combo guard DJ Steward, Howard’s name still carries weight with recruits in the Windy City.
“It means a lot,” Steward said Friday at the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp at the University of Virginia. “My coach from Whitney Young, Coach (Tyrone) Slaughter, talks very highly of him, so I'm really getting excited to get to know him.”
Howard, who was born and raised in Chicago, starred at Chicago Vocational and spent three seasons on the varsity team from 1988-90 where he built up his game and fame.
As a sophomore, Howard already was considered a blue-chip recruit and was the only player in his grade to make the 20-man All-Chicago Public High School League team. As a junior, he was ranked among the top players in Illinois and earned All-League first team honors. Then as a senior, he was named a McDonald’s All-American and established himself as one of the top prospects and big men in the nation.
From there, Howard became part of Michigan’s prized Fab Five recruiting class that reached back-to-back national title games and went on to a 25-year career in the NBA as a player and assistant coach.
According to Steward, Slaughter said Howard is a “good guy” who helped him get his first job at Dominick’s, a Chicago-area grocery store chain that closed in 2013.
And everything Slaughter told Steward about Howard rang true when they first spoke.
“He was really cool and down to earth like coach said. Just a really nice guy,” Steward said. “He said that I’m a big priority.”
Steward, who’s rated the No. 2 prospect in Illinois for 2020 by 247Sports, said he was interested in Michigan before Howard was hired to replace former coach John Beilein last month.
He also listed the Wolverines among the schools that are recruiting him the hardest, along with Texas, Louisville, Illinois, DePaul, Northwestern and Duke.
Steward said he hopes to take a trip to Ann Arbor but has nothing planned yet. When he does schedule visits, though, he wants to get a genuine feel for the campus, coaches and players and added he’s “big on relationships,” which is a trait Howard was lauded for during his six seasons as a Miami Heat assistant.
“(I’m looking for) a coach that I have a great relationship with and a coach that lets me play my game,” Steward said. “Just go out there, have fun and give me a chance.”
Jabri Abdur-Rahim, a four-star wing from Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J., was one of Beilein’s 2020 recruiting targets, and Howard picked up where he left off by extending an offer to Abdur-Rahim last week.
Abdur-Rahim said Howard and his staff have been keeping in touch, but there’s still a lot he wants to learn about Michigan as it enters the post-Beilein era.
“I want to get a chance to watch them play and see what they do offensively, see what they do defensively, see the style of play, see what they have,” said Abdur-Rahim, who’s the son of former NBA standout Shareef Abdur-Rahim. “I'm interested to see how it goes next season for them.”
Abdur-Rahim holds offers from some of the nation’s top programs, including Virginia, Michigan State and Kansas, and said he wants to start narrowing down his list toward the end of summer and fall.