Examining how Jace Howard’s walk-on status affects Michigan’s scholarship predicament

Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 9:30pm

Michigan now has 12 of 13 scholarship slots filled for next season.

Michigan now has 12 of 13 scholarship slots filled for next season. Buy this photo
Allison Engkvist/Daily

Some way, somehow, the Michigan men’s basketball team has to get below the NCAA’s 13-scholarship limit next season. On Wednesday, the route to that number began to materialize.

At the beginning of this week, the roster crunch was tight. With the Wolverines set to bring back nine scholarship players in 2020-21 and sign a five-man 2020 recruiting class, the team found itself one scholarship over the limit.

After junior forward Isaiah Livers announced his intentions to test the NBA Draft waters last week, additional uncertainty set in. Even so, Michigan’s coaching staff carried on in its recruitment of two five-star 2020 prospects and a pair of Ivy League graduate transfers. Last week, though, it was unclear how five-star shooting guard Josh Christopher, five-star power forward Greg Brown, Harvard graduate transfer Bryce Aiken or Columbia graduate transfer Mike Smith would mathematically fit in.

But on Monday, the dominoes began falling into place when the program confirmed sophomore guard David DeJulius’s intention to transfer. Even as Livers’s draft status remains in limbo, DeJulius’s departure brought the Wolverines’ scholarship count down to 13 in the event Livers returns. And on Wednesday, Josh Henschke of 247Sports first reported class of 2020 three-star commit Jace Howard — son of Michigan coach Juwan Howard — will not be on scholarship next season.

In a calculated move, Howard’s walk-on status brings the Wolverines’ current scholarship count down to 12 for next season. The decision leaves the door open for Michigan to add one of the four prospects it continues to recruit, with Bryce Aiken set to announce his college choice on Thursday and Christopher expected to follow suit on Monday.

In Howard, Columbia transfer Jaron Faulds and Duquesne transfer Brandon Wade, next season’s roster will now include three walk-ons who were previously recruited to play at the Division I level.

If Livers remains in the NBA Draft, the Wolverines have enough space to add two of the four. Creating any more space than that would require another transfer, provided 2020 five-star commit Isaiah Todd quells rumors of playing overseas by matriculating to Ann Arbor this fall.

With the April 15 signing day quickly approaching, a once-murky situation could be finalized in a tidy manner in the coming days.