Juwan Howard Jr. shows off basketball pedigree for Pistons

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Juwan Howard Jr. came into Saturday's predraft Pistons workouts with something none of the other players had — two NBA championship rings given to him by his father Juwan Howard, who won them with the Miami Heat.

Now Howard Jr. begins a longshot process of trying to earn his own championship rings so he can pass them out to family members, just as his dad did in 2012 and 2013 during the tail end of his career.

"Yeah, they've got my name on them," Howard beamed inside the Pistons practice facility.

The University of Detroit graduate was one of six players who worked out at The Palace in front of Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and his staff.

Others were power forwards Bobby Portis (Arkansas) and Kevon Looney (UCLA), and guards Will Cummings (Temple), D.J. Newbill (Penn State), Dom Pointer (St. John's).

"I got to see them win those first championships first hand," Howard Jr. said. "It was great experiencing that and seeing the joy on my father's face when he won those two championships. I got a huge cheat sheet from that standpoint I am ahead of the game on the pros from the tips my dad gave me."

Howard Sr. was part of the famed Fab Five class that played at Michigan. He played 19 seasons in the NBA with nine teams, finishing with the Heat. He was an All-Star in 1996 and is now an assistant coach with the Heat. But he was not the only basketball star in the family.

Howard Jr.'s mother, Markita Blyden, led Detroit Murray Wright to the Class A state title game in 1990 where it lost to Detroit King. She was the Miss Basketball runner-up, averaging 19.4 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

"She taught me everything I know from shooting to keeping that edge each and every time we are on the court," Howard Jr. said.

Howard is a pure scorer, which made him attractive to the Pistons. Howard Jr. is not likely to be drafted but there is a good shot that the Pistons contact him if he becomes a free agent. Of course, the Heat could do the same at the urging of his dad.

Van Gundy and U-D coach Ray McCallum are friends since their days as assistant coaches at Wisconsin. McCallum wants to see Howard get a shot because of his ability to adjust from role player to scorer. He averaged 7.6 points and shot 38.6 percent from the floor as a sophomore, and improved that to 17.5 points and 43.4 percent shooting by his senior season.

"He showed that he can score at a high level and consistently score," McCallum said. "The bigger the game, the bigger the opponent, the more he responded."

Portis was the big fish among the players Saturday. He won SEC Player of the Year in a conference loaded with talented Kentucky players. He said he had an edge his final season after not playing up to his expectations as junior.

His mentor was former Piston Corliss Williamson, who was NBA sixth man of the year (2002) and won a title with the Pistons in 2004. Williamson was Portis' AAU coach from fourth through ninth grades and helped steer him to Arkansas.

"I feel like I am kind of following him," Portis said. "Hopefully they (the Pistons) want me. I can't pick where I go this round. They have to pick me."

Williamson was a tough 6-foot-7 forward who did most of his scoring and dirty work inside.

"He taught me to be myself no matter where I go," Portis said. "Whether you are in a restaurant be yourself. Don't try to be something you can't be and don't try to be someone else."

Pointer grew up on the east side of Detroit, but moved to Roseville after his eighth grade season and played at Quality Education Academy before going to St. John's. He was just one of three players to appear in all 33 games last season and recorded 5.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

"I think things went well," Portis said. "I played tough today, made some shots. Everybody was competitive. It was a good experience."

Players who worked out for Pistons

Will Cummings, 6-1 guard, Temple

Juwan Howard Jr., 6-6 forward, University of Detroit

D.J. Newbill, 6-4 guard, Penn State

Kevon Looney, 6-9 forward, UCLA

Dom Pointer, 6-6 guard, St. John's

Bobby Portis, 6-11 forward, Arkansas