Howard builds him­self into elite shooter

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - SPORTS - BEN STEELE

Markus Howard’s jump shot looks ef­fort­less, but the Mar­quette sopho­more guard put in a lot of hard la­bor to be­come one of the na­tion’s top three-point threats.

Grow­ing up, Howard per­fected his text­book form in gyms across the Phoenix area. That’s also where he puts in work dur­ing the sum­mer.

Over­see­ing Howard’s de­vel­op­ment has been his old­est brother, Des­mond, a 23-year-old for­mer bas­ket­ball player at Phoenix Col­lege who runs his own busi­ness as a skills

trainer. Des­mond’s prized pupils are his two younger broth­ers.

“He’s been around bas­ket­ball for a long time, so I trust him about ev­ery­thing,” Markus said.

The num­bers don’t lie. Howard shot 54.7% on three-point­ers (82 for 150) last sea­son to lead the na­tion. He was at 57.3% in Big East games.

The mid­dle brother, Jor­dan, is a se­nior guard at Cen­tral Arkansas and made 44% (101 of 227) of his three-point at­tempts last sea­son while av­er­ag­ing 19.5 points per game.

“In my opin­ion, no­body shoots like me or my brother. We can shoot any­where from half court and beyond,” Markus said. “(Des­mond) kind of de­vises some pretty crazy work­outs for us. It’s def­i­nitely in­ter­est­ing. I don’t think any­body does work­outs like me and my broth­ers do. Do­ing that each and ev­ery day re­ally raises my game.”

The Howards get up 500-750 shots ev­ery ses­sion from all over the court – floaters in the lane, midrange, threes from NBA dis­tance.

Each work­out ends with the broth­ers mak­ing at least two straight shots from half court. Not des­per­ate, one-armed heaves but jump shots with pure form from well over 40 feet.

“The work­outs that I do, I make them frus­trated. The av­er­age bas­ket­ball player can’t fin­ish their work­out,” Des­mond said. “Just off per­cent­age-wise – make five in row, make 10 in a row, make 15 in a row. It’s not go­ing to hap­pen (for oth­ers). From that per­spec­tive, I re­ally try to push them and make sure they’re set apart. And it re­flects in their per­cent­ages.”

As a kid, Markus was some­thing of a shoot­ing sa­vant.

“It was from the get-go that I saw his pas­sion,” Des­mond said. “Shoot­ing on his own, try­ing to per­fect his shot. I would have a game, and at half­time he would be the kid on the court shoot­ing all the time.”

Markus shot over 50% on three-point­ers while at Perry High School in Gil­bert, Ariz., and Find­lay Prep in Las Ve­gas be­fore grad­u­at­ing early. He was 18 for 37 (48.6%) from beyond the arc while help­ing Team USA win a gold medal at the 2016 FIBA 17U World Cham­pi­onship.

Then came the eye­open­ing fresh­man sea­son with the Golden Ea­gles when Markus was just 17 years old.

Can he con­tinue the hot shoot­ing?

“I think he can shoot over 50% in the NBA, you can quote me on that. I’m very con­fi­dent in what we do," Des­mond said. “If he gets more shots (at MU this sea­son), I think it will be an even higher per­cent­age. Now, depend­ing on who they play, tougher shots can play into it. An off game can play into it; I mean, he’s hu­man. But the more op­por­tu­nity, the bet­ter he’s go­ing to be. He’s just go­ing to strive. I’m very con­fi­dent in his per­cent­ages, bot­tom line. He should shoot any­where from 55-60%.”

Markus cer­tainly has the per­ma­nent green light to shoot from MU coach Steve Wo­j­ciechowski.

“Our phi­los­o­phy on of­fense is that the ball is go­ing to find the best shot. So if Markus is open 15 times be­hind the arc and he doesn’t shoot it all 15 times, I’m go­ing to have a real prob­lem with him,” Wo­j­ciechowski said.

Markus will draw heavy at­ten­tion from de­fenses, some­thing Des­mond fac­tored into the work­outs head­ing into this sea­son.

“The main thing we worked on is com­ing off screens. Dif­fer­ent po­si­tion­ing on his shots, where he is go­ing to get shots from. Us­ing ball fakes, pump fakes; guys are go­ing to be fly­ing right by him. Work­ing on the midrange,” Des­mond said. “Also see­ing the de­fense: Where is the ex­tra pass? Where can he pick up more as­sists? He’s def­i­nitely see­ing that ex­tra pass, mak­ing his team­mates bet­ter.

"And it makes it eas­ier on him­self, when he gives (the ball) up, the de­fense re­cov­ers on the guy he gives it up to and when he gets it back, it is an open shot. His IQ has gone up tremen­dously over the sum­mer, so it’s go­ing to be very ex­cit­ing to see him play.”

Wo­j­ciechowski, of course, wants Markus to im­prove his whole game.

“There’s more to the game than shoot­ing. I’ve been around some out­stand­ing shoot­ers, he’s up there with any of them with his abil­ity to shot­make,” said Wo­j­ciechowski, who helped de­velop long-range ace J.J. Redick while an as­sis­tant at Duke. “Our chal­lenge to him is to con­tinue to be­come an even more well­rounded player. The great thing about Markus is that he’s never sat­is­fied.”

GETTY IM­AGES

Markus Howard puts up a three-point shot over Creighton’s Isa­iah Zier­den last sea­son.

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