Howard builds himself into elite shooter
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.”
Markus Howard puts up a three-point shot over Creighton’s Isaiah Zierden last season.