Golden Basketball Magazine
April 27, 2016

"In a sense, Pete Maravich was black and white. His vast street-sense basketball skills were Harlem Globetrotterish and yet his heritage was very much Caucasian. His basketball wizardry helped reduce the gap between these two worlds."

Mike Towle, Pete Maravich: Magician of the Hardwood

Tiger Den Basketball

Season in Time: 2005-06 Part II

The Tigers reeled off seven straight wins to start SEC play.

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Did You Know?


Centenary's only star, the Packers of Chicago, and the American Basketball League with a brash young owner in Cleveland.

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Basketball Profile

The Fab Five - II

The highly touted freshmen immediately changed the basketball culture at Michigan.

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Basketball Quiz

Which SEC schools have won the men's basketball championship since the NCAA Tournament was initiated in 1939?

Yes, Grandma.
Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, the American Dream, Mitch Albom (1993)
Juwan Howard was ranked the #4 high school senior in the 1991 recruiting class.

Jannie Mae Howard, the daughter of sharecroppers in Belzoni, Mis­sissippi, had four babies by her nineteenth birthday, so she knew about motherhood, particularly young motherhood. When her teen­age daughter Helena came home one night complaining about nau­sea, Jannie Mae sighed.
"It's that food down at the restaurant where I'm working, Mama," Helena said. "The smell of it makes me sick."
"It ain't the food, Helena. You're pregnant."
The doctors confirmed it. Helena quickly married the father, Leroy Watson, Jr., a phone company worker who had just come back from the army. And they lived for a while in the upstairs room at Jannie Mae's place on Chicago's South Side. But when Juwan was born, it was obvious the responsibility was too much for them. Helena was only 17, a junior in high school. When she brought the child home from the hospital, they didn't even have a crib for him. Jannie Mae told them to use the chest upstairs, open it up, get a pillow and a blanket, make sure it was sturdy.
For the first week of his life, Juwan Howard slept in a drawer.
Over the years, although his mother visited, Jannie Mae raised Ju­wan as her own. And he adored her. He sat by the kitchen table and watched her cook. He curled on the couch and fell asleep in her lap. She would tap her leg just enough to rock him to sleep, then light another cigarette and rub his head. She called him "Nookie," no one is sure why, but when she called, he listened.
"Nookie, go get me some cigarettes from Red's store."
"Aw, Grandma, I don't feel like -"
"What you say, boy?"
"Yes, Grandma."
They lived in several low-income projects, all on the South Side. At one point, they lived above a barbecue place, and they went to bed each night to the smell of the sauce. When Juwan came home one day with a homemade tattoo on his shoulder - "Dr. J." it read, after the basketball star - Jannie Mae let him have it, said he was too young to be scarring himself like that. And when the South Side gangs started calling, Jannie Mae locked the door, putting a sun­down curfew on her grandson.
Jannie Mae Howard saved Juwan from an otherwise desperate street life, and she did it with love. For his grandma, Juwan went to school. For his grandma, he worked at his game. Jannie Mae was Juwan's guiding light. And if she liked a college, Juwan liked a col­lege. Brian Dutcher [assistant coach at Michigan] knew this.
Not everyone was so smart. When Lute Olsen and the Arizona staff came to Chicago to recruit Juwan, they mistakenly thought he and his coach were the only important people in the room. They directed the conversation toward the men. Lannie Mae, feeling ignored, went out on the porch and smoked cigarettes until they finished. On their way out, Olson asked if she had any questions.
"What the hell you asking me now for?" she said, blowing a cloud of smoke. "You ain't asked me a damn thing the whole night." Their mouths fell. They were dead.
Jannie Mae wasn't Juwan's only influence, however. There was also a fast-talking, round-headed marketing major named Donnie Kirksey ... Kirksey had attached himself to Juwan early, joining the staff at Chicago Vocational High School, as an unpaid assistant coach, and befriending young Howard when he was a freshman. ... "You gotta be smart, Juwan," he would say. "You got a chance to get out of this neighborhood. You can't mess with no bad influences." ...

L-R: Brian Dutcher, Donnie Kirksey, Juwan Howard
The two of them grew close, and when recruiting heated up, word went out that Donnie Kirksey was the contact for Juwan Howard. He took many of the calls. He intercepted most of the letters. When recruiters came to CVS to see practice, Donnie let them know, "You talk to me about Juwan."
One school, Kirksey claims, offered him $25,000 to get Juwan to commit and $10,000 for every month he stayed enrolled.
"He's not for sale," Donnie told them. And that was true: it was more like the barter system. Donnie hoped that steering Juwan to a major college coaching staff would help him achieve his own dream: getting on a major college coaching staff. Was he qualified? No. But stranger things had happened. ...
"Kirksey is really influential," Dutcher had warned Fisher. "We need to have him on our side."
So they recruited Kirksey as well. They phoned him. They encou­raged his dreams of getting into the business. In the summer be­tween Juwan's junior and senior years, Fisher actually hired Donnie Kirksey to work at his summer basketball camp in Ann Arbor, and paid him well. ...
The plan worked to perfection. Donnie was paid handsomely ... And Juwan had a great time in Ann Arbor, doing the camp, walking along the tree-lined campus, checking out the music stores and cafes, admi­ring the girls. This was a far cry from the noisy streets of South Chica­go. ...
When Juwan took his "official" recruiting visit to Michigan in the fall of his senior year - his second actual stay - he was already quite fond of the maize and blue. On that same weekend, Fisher brought in Jimmy King, the star guard from Texas. He had the two of them stay together, go to the football game together, party on campus togeth­er. This was a smart move by Fisher. ...
And much to Fisher's pleasure, Juwan and Jimmy got along well, Ju­wan making jokes, Jimmy laughing and shrugging in his shy Texas way. They'd even talked about rooming together if both became Wolverines. ...
"Juwan, you know how much we want you here at Michigan," Fisher had told him at the end of his weekend. "You could have an immedi­ate impact."
"Thanks, coach," Juwan said. "I'm pretty sure I'm coming. I'm sup­posed to take some other visits, but you guys are my first choice." ...
This was the day. November 14, 1991. Time for Juwan to make his announcement. His grandma woke him, as she always did. He'd never used an alarm clock. ...
"When I make the NBA one day," he told himself, looking in the mir­ror, "I'm gonna take care of Grandma. Buy a big house in the sub­urbs."
He came downstairs, gulped breakfast, kissed her goodbye.
"I love you, Grandma."
"Hmmm-mmm. Go on now."
He and Jannie Mae had signed the letter of intent this morning, so everything was legit. He felt good, he felt relieved. At school, he met with reporters and told them his decision.
"I think Michigan is a great school, and I'll be able to contribute to their program." ...
When he returned to 135th Street, the street lamps were on. He parked his car and saw several people outside his apartment, which was strange. He recognized one woman. Friend of the family's. She seemed upset. He rolled down the window.
"Oh, Juwan, I'm so sorry for you."
"What do you mean?"
"You don't know?"
She looked shocked. "I, um, I shouldn't be the one to tell you."
"Tell me what?"
"You should find out in ther-"
"Tell me what?"
The woman began to cry. "I'm sorry, Juwan. Your grandmother ... she ..."
Juwan shivered. A hurt began to rise from a part of his belly he never knew he had. It lifted him from the car and up the steps.
"Naw," he said, looking in. "NAW!" ...
Jamie Mae Howard had collapsed in the kitchen that afternoon while talking to her daughter about Juwan's future. A heart attack, they said, massive. She was dead by the time she reached the hospital.