Juwan Howard Jr. basketball set

Juwan Howard Jr. discusses his dad’s coaching chops, his own basketball path

DIMONDALE - Juwan Howard Jr. deals with trash talking from opposing players and fans on Thursday night at the Moneyball Pro-Am Summer League. He participated in two separate post-game interviews. He fulfilled requests for photos and autographs.

Howard was the game's leading scorer and rebounder, but in the relatively low-stakes competition, his performance was not the main reason he was in the spotlight.

It was because his father, who shares his name, was a basketball star at Michigan who played 19 years in the NBA and recently returned to his alma mater as the head coach.

"It's really challenging because people go at me a little harder," Howard said. "You saw tonight - some hecklers in the crowd. Everybody wants to go at me."

Howard said this with a smile on his face, a face that looks very much like his dad's. He admitted to his own chirping on the court and said he embraces the competition. If some of it stems from having a famous father, he can deal with that.

Howard, 27, was his dad's first child, with Markita Blyden. His basketball genes were strong: Blyden was a runner-up for Michigan's Miss Basketball and played in college. He won a state championship at Detroit Pershing and played a season at Western Michigan before transferring to Detroit Mercy. Howard, a 6-foot-6 forward, led Detroit Mercy in scoring in each of his final two seasons.

He went undrafted, and has had stints in the NBA Summer League and G-League, as well as overseas. His latest professional stops were in Indonesia - where he won a title - and Canada, where he said he played well but the team didn't. "So it was a lousy season to me," he said.

His agent secured him an invite to the G-League Invitational - for league hopefuls - in mid-August. If that doesn't work out, he plans to head back overseas.

On Thursday, Howard made his first appearance of the summer at Moneyball in what was considered the best game of the event so far.

Howard's teammates included Denarryl Rice, a pro who hails from Detroit, and Michigan State freshman Malik Hall. They faced a squad that featured Spartans Aaron Henry and Julius Marble.

Howard scored 32 points on 13-of-23 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds. One of his five 3-pointers, with 30 seconds left in regulation, sent the game to overtime. He showed a willingness to pass and play defense, which can't be said of everyone on the floor that night. Hurt by a questionable call in the final seconds, Howard's team lost in double overtime, 106-105.

After, he put on a headset and told the hosts of a local radio show, "I feel like I'm at the Breslin (Center)," referring to Michigan State's home arena, just eight miles from where he sat. Howard admitted his conditioning isn't where it needs to be. He also fielded a few questions about his dad.

In the locker room, one-on-one with MLive, he expanded on his career and relationship with Michigan's new men's head basketball coach.

The elder Howard played in the NBA during junior's entire childhood, shifting to coaching while his son was in college.

Asked if it was challenging to have his dad travel so much, Howard Jr. shook his head. "He made it easy. My mom made it easy. My stepfather made it easy. I had a father figure always there. I can't say I was hurt. I was more like overly excited when I saw him. 'Dad, tell me more! ' As a kid I never really looked at it as a bad thing. I looked at it as a good thing. "

In 2015 and 2016, he played for his dad with the Heat's Summer League team. The elder Howard, an assistant with the Heat the past six years, was the Summer League squad's head coach in '16.

"He was on my tail," Howard said with a laugh, recalling those summers. "He just wanted me to be successful, as much as a father should. The older I get, the more I understand the buttons he pressed."

Howard said his dad holds all his players to the same standard, whether they're LeBron James or someone trying to make the team.

He hasn't talked Xs and Os with his dad lately - despite now living in the same state, in-person contact has been infrequent given the college recruiting schedule - but is confident in what he can do as Michigan's coach.

It is mentioned that his dad has never been a head coach.

"Yeah, everybody says that," Howard Jr. said. "I will say this, as a type of counter argument: When you played in two Final Fours and an Elite Eight, then you play in the league for 19 years, then you play and coach with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, under Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra - if you don't know basketball, manwho does? "

He said his dad has a "beautiful basketball mind," which he's absorbed, in pieces, his whole life and saw in game situations in the Summer League. "He's firm in his beliefs. He's firm in his culture of what he's going to build for the future."

When Howard Jr. was 19 or 20, he got a tattoo on his upper arm that reads, "Like Father, Like Son." He is told frequently that he looks like his dad, moves like him. Both are animated when they talk, with an air of professionalism. Junior described both himself and his dad as "fierce" on the court but "nice guys" off of it.

As similar as they may be, there are obvious disparities in regards to basketball success.

“His career as a basketball player was consistent,” Howard said. His hand takes on the path of a roller coaster to describe his own career. "I've just got to get my consistency like him."