When Jimmy King came home from high school practice as a highly-touted recruit, he wasn’t just greeted by his mother but often another call from Juwan Howard.
With only one phone attached to a cord that stretched through the house, as King recalled, he would mouth to his mom the moment it rang.
“I’m not here, I’m not here,” King would tell her while she responded to Howard.
As the first signee of the Fab Five, Howard took it upon himself to recruit his fellow teammates. Relentless in his pursuits, Howard is well-known for not only courting King to Michigan but also Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Ray Jackson.
“Think I recruited you, right?” Howard said on Thursday as he looked at King from the podium at Crisler Center. “Told Jimmy I’m coming, you better come with me.”
Twenty-eight years later, Howard was introduced as Michigan’s basketball coach, and his focus toward recruiting will be more than just a one-time ordeal. His biggest priority as a recruiter is to find players who uphold the Michigan culture of brotherhood within the team, similar to what he experienced during his playing days in Ann Arbor.
At the same time, though, he will need to learn the rules of the NCAA before doing so — a stark contrast from his predecessor, John Beilein, who knew the rulebook like the back of his hand.
“Brotherhood is big with me,” Howard said. “The relationship that we built over the years — that will never leave us. They are family and I know how supportive Jimmy, Chris, Jalen, Ray (have been), and do you want me to name the other teammates? But I know how supportive they all will be in helping to continue this Michigan winning tradition on and off the floor.
“Recruiting is going to be the challenge because I have to first understand all the rules. I want to continue to make sure that this culture does not take a step back. I will learn and get into that rulebook of NCAA rules as far as what you are allowed to do and what you’re not allowed to do. That’s gonna be one of the biggest challenges, and to my understanding, there are a lot of rules out there.”
As a former five-star, McDonald’s All-American recruit with AAU ties through his children, Howard is expected to expand the Wolverines’ recruiting pipeline to players Beilein might not have considered. He affirmed that on Thursday, but made it known that he also wants to find pieces that best fit the puzzle.
“I’m all eyes, I’m all ears to talent,” Howard said. “I haven’t just pinpointed exactly like, I’m going after the five-star, one-and-dones or I’m going to recruit three-star kids. As a staff, we will meet. We will figure out, what is the best solution moving forward to give us the best chance to win?”
Current players are also eager to see how Howard’s pedigree, both as a player and coach, will drive the direction of recruiting. But they are confident that he will continue to bring in recruits that fit right in with the current roster.
“If I was a recruit, that would definitely catch my eye,” said junior forward Isaiah Livers. “You’ve got a guy who was in the NBA, played in the Fab Five, coached in the NBA. He’s got a lot of experience under his belt. That’s definitely going to draw my attention to Michigan.
“As long as he brings in people that wanna play defense, is gonna work hard and just gonna be a great guy off the court, I have no problem. We all have no problem. We all want the same kind of guy. We want a guy we can hang out with on the court, off the court and a guy who works hard. And they’ll fit right in.”