Jace Howard was more than one of Michigan’s three captains last season, he was also one of its key emotional leaders.
Not a starter or a leading scorer, but you’d find him standing in front of the bench when the starting lineups are announced, executing a custom handshake with each starter as their names are called to take the court. Not a member of the coaching staff — he still has two years of eligibility left — but you’d find him in the middle of the huddle hyping up the team right before tip-off. Not always on the court, but always the most energetic.
If there’s anyone most qualified to capture the team’s mindset and energy level, it’s the guy who plays such a large role in creating it. On Tuesday’s episode of the ‘Defend the Block’ podcast, Howard articulated a team taking this summer seriously following last year’s disappointment.
“I know it’s made us pissed off,” Howard said. “Obviously we don’t really get into how much we’re being talked about, where our projections are, and stuff like that, but we’re just pissed off because we think that we’re being written off.”
Aside from missing the NCAA Tournament last season, part of the reason his team is being “written off” can be captured at one of Howard’s favorite moments of the offseason. There he was, live on ESPN giving his brother Jett Howard one of those handshakes after being drafted by the Orlando Magic as the 11th overall pick. His teammate Kobe Bufkin was selected just four picks later by the Atlanta Hawks.
That, combined with Hunter Dickinson’s transfer to Kansas, leaves the Wolverines’ roster seemingly depleted. Jace doesn’t see it that way.
“We’re like a band of guys who’ve been written off, like a band of misfits basically,” Jace said. “And I think that’s just great for us this offseason because it’s just making us a lot closer.”