With college try, Bullets' Howard set to graduate

April 22, 1995|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

For Washington Bullets coach Jim Lynam, the tough season will give way to the quiet of a secluded cabin out west. For Gheorghe Muresan, there will be a trip home to Romania. For Doug Overton, there will be fatherly chores around the house with his recently born son.

And for Juwan Howard? The Bullets' rookie forward will trade his uniform for a cap and gown.

Howard's is the story of a promise made and a promise kept. Before his grandmother, Jannie Mae Howard, died in 1991 -- the same day that Howard became the first member of the Fab Five to sign with Michigan -- Howard promised that he would graduate from college.

So, next Saturday, he will walk the aisle at his alma mater and graduate, on time, with a communications degree.

"I promised her before I went to college that I would get my degree, and I knew how much it meant to her," Howard said. "It's going to be so nice. It's going to put a big smile on my face, receiving my degree from the president of the university."

And make Howard a perfect spokesman for the NBA's "Stay in School" program, which often features players who didn't. Howard had no way of knowing he would earn his degree so soon, not after leaving Michigan after his junior season. But after the spring semester, when he found he was just 32 credits shy of graduating on time, he set a goal to do just that.

"I took independent courses, correspondence courses and extension courses," Howard said. "A lot of the work was faxed to me by my tutors and professors. I just Federal Expressed some packages back and it worked out real nice."

Even if it meant doing schoolwork during a time-consuming season.

"It was tough early. It was my first year in the league, and with all the road trips and games, I found myself tired and not wanting to do anything," Howard said. "But then as I started to get a hang of life on the road, it started to work like clockwork. I got used to it, and it wasn't as big a hassle as I thought it would be."

In addition to his family, Howard also has made the basketball staff at Michigan proud.

"Obviously it says a lot about the young man and the character he has," said Scott Perry, an assistant coach at Michigan. "He's a tremendous individual and he's a great role model for players here now and players in this program the next 25 to 30 years. He'll be a person you can point to as achieving both dreams, and going about it the right way."

Howard said that only recently had he been able to think about the graduation ceremony.

"I've been trying to focus on the season and trying to win, and now there's another season for me -- graduation," Howard said. "I just want to spread the word to other kids coming out early that they can do the same thing."

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