Most of the players on this year's team feel they will be more athletic than the past couple seasons. Even though Howard hasn't been around the guys that much, what he has seen he likes very much. "Oh most definitely, we're more athletic. You add a Rodney Alexander to the mix along with Brian Randle - we should be pretty good out there. Not only on the offensive end of the floor but we should be pretty good on defense, too. I told the guys today as long and we play hard and have a good attitude we should be okay," said Howard.
When you look at the situation on paper, losing shooting guard Jamar Smith could be a concern for this year's team, especially shooting from the perimeter. Howard doesn't necessarily believe that to be true. "You look at guys like Demetri and Trent. They can both knock down shots. Brian is a streaky shooter and Chester - I would put all my marbles on a guy like Chester, because when we need a big shot that is how tough of a kid he is. We're going to be a streaky team, but I think it all comes back to defense and how hard we play. In the past that's what we've done and in the end that's what I think it's going to come down to," Howard stressed.
Last week was a big week for the Illini on the recruiting front, with commitments from the Class of 2009's D. J Richardson, Brandon Paul and Joseph Bertrand - all in a matter of two days. It's been argued that these three fine student-athletes came to Illinois because of Howard. No one knows that for sure. "No, I don't think that's all true. I think most of it has to do with guys like Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Luther Head and the University and Coach Weber. Basically, it all comes down to everybody brought something different to the table. I mean I wouldn't be doing my job or cheating this program if I didn't try to bring something to the table, so it's been a group effort," Howard said.
Howard has made no secret of his love for the University of Illinois. He's the right guy for the job. Denise Smith, mother of former Illini Deron Williams, told me, "Illinois hired the right guy for the job. If they want someone to sell the school and truly believes in what he's selling and a former player, then Jerrance is the right person for that job." With taking the NCAA test, calling recruits, coaching, and being a husband, you would think Howard would be wearing down. But that's not the case. "I'm fine right now. I haven't worn down. Talk to me around Christmas, but right now I'm still on an emotional high," Howard said with a laugh.
Howard and Weber's staff are still trying to get more commitments. When that happens we'll let you know here at InsideIllini.com.