At first, it looked like it might not be freshman wing Jett Howard’s night. After a rough warmup and an underwhelming start to the game, Jett’s scoring outburst came unprompted. But when it came late in the first half, there was nothing that Ferris State could do to stop him.
“Believe it or not, I didn’t hit any shots in warmups, so I was a little nervous going into the game,” Jett said.
The exhibition did start slow for Jett. Even though he scored on his first attempt, the bucket came off of a shot that most coaches cringe at the sight of. Unable to beat his defender, Jett forced a heavily contested jumper near the basket that somehow dropped.
Following his early bucket — Jett didn’t find the basket again until more than midway through the first half on a transition three. After that shot dropped, it quickly grew into a barrage from deep. By the end of the first half, Jett notched four 3-pointers, and by the end of the game, that number expanded to six.
It took him a while, but once Jett got it going, he was hot.
“I had a moment in transition where I kind of did an in-and-out move and the guy bit on it and I shot,” Jett said. “I haven’t done that in practice a lot, so it clicked after that moment. Like ‘OK, here we go’.”
The play that Jett’s referring to demonstrated his ability to beat his defender off the dribble and get to the spot he wants. In this case, that spot was in the mid-range. But in most cases, that spot is at the rim.
Jett’s most impressive drive came at the end of an individual run that saw him score 14 points in the final four minutes of the first half. Beating his defender on the baseline, Jett launched himself towards the rim — floating under the basket — before emerging on the other side to finish off a reverse layup.
“I felt pretty confident and these guys kept getting me the ball and were motivating me instead of trying to take their shots and get their shots,” Jett said. “They’re just kind of telling me to keep going and keep going and it worked out for me. So, I appreciate that.”
It’s plays like these that — when combined with Jett’s ability to hit from deep — could make him one of Michigan’s most dangerous pieces on the offensive side of the ball, especially if his teammates can get him the rock. With four of last season’s top-five scorers gone, the Wolverines need people to step up. After tonight, Jett showed that he possesses the ability to be one of those scorers.
As far as Michigan coach Juwan Howard is concerned, though, it’s all about consistency and building winning habits early in the season.
“There’s always room for growth, but the key is that we’re going to need some consistent play,” Juwan said. “And it doesn’t mean that the ball has to go in the basket for (Jett) to be effective on the floor. There’s going to be games where you have high scoring games, and maybe games where you have low scoring games. But the key is how to affect the game in a winning way, when the ball is going in the basket and when it’s not going in the basket.”
Jett’s impressive performance, though, came against a Division II school. That’s not to say his explosiveness and scoring prowess won’t shine against opponents of a higher quality, but, he might not shine like that as often.
But everything Jett showed was the upside that was promised. If he can continue to deliver, his scoring ability could prove to be a headache for opposing defenses as the season commences.