Want to hear a college basketball parent’s fairy tale? Say hello to Chuck and Noemi Howard of Chandler, Arizona.
But first, take a look at the nation’s top scorers list. No. 5 at 24.8 points per game is Central Arkansas senior Jordan Howard. Their middle son.
No. 12 at 22.8 is Marquette sophomore Markus Howard. Their youngest.The leading 3-point shooter in the history of the Southland Conference, setting the career record last week on his 22nd birthday? Jordan. The nation’s top 3-point shooter in percentage last year, setting an NCAA freshman record at 54.7? Markus.
The top free throw shooter in the Southland this season, hitting 86.8 percent? Jordan. The top free-throw shooter in college basketball, making all 55 of his attempts? Markus.
Jordan is the 5-11 guard who last Wednesday set a Central Arkansas Division I record with 41 points in a game. Markus is the 5-11 guard who a week earlier set a Marquette record with 52 points in a game.
Numbers like that can have parents wanting to high-five the whole world, right? Let’s ask them.
“Not really,” Chuck said over the phone. “I don’t really look at that. I try not to, I try to keep things in perspective. I really don’t look at Twitter or Facebook. Your emotions can get the best of you if you’re not careful. We’re a faith-based family, we don’t want to treat basketball as an idol.”
No, something else moves the needle back home as much as shiny averages and glowing shooting percentages.
Academic all-Big East last season? Markus. Third team academic All-American? Jordan. He just graduated with a degree in digital filmmaking.
“(Jordan) has done some nice films and documentaries on the side while he’s playing basketball,” Chuck said. “We tried to impress upon our kids to have things other than basketball. We tried to stress being servants in the community. They both love the Special Olympics. Basketball is a great platform for creating a positive imagery of what a college student-athlete should be, and we’re hoping those two are displaying that.”
What a past two months it has been, then, for the folks at home. “Humbling,” Chuck called it. “It’s been a blessing to see all the hard work come to pass.” And he means the entire family. He works the strength and conditioning in the off-season for Jordan and Markus, oldest son Desmond helps his brothers on the basketball training portion. Noemi — “Our MVP,” Chuck said — holds it all together
It is late afternoon on Jan. 3 in the Howard home. On the computer, the Central Arkansas-Sam Houston State game is being streamed from Huntsville, Tex. On television, the Marquette-Providence game is on from Rhode Island. Mom and dad can take it from there.
Chuck: “Markus played an hour before. So we caught about half of that game and then put it on TiVo. Then we were watching Jordan’s game.”
Noemi: “So we have the TV on pause, our phones are going off the entire time we’re trying to watch Jordan’s game. We know something crazy was happening, because our phones kept bleeping because text messages were coming through.”
Chuck : “I finally said, `Noemi, just turn the phone off.' Desmond texted and gave us a couple of ideas what was happening. We watched Jordan’s game, then when we turned on our phones. Our phones were blowing up.”
Noemi: “We had no idea what had occurred. But everyone else did.”
Markus had exploded for 52 points in a 95-90 overtime win, the most for any college player this season. Meanwhile, Jordan scored 25 points in an 82-76 loss. Back home in Arizona, the parents got to watch both. Eventually. “Thank God,” Chuck said, “for technology.”
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Markus and Jordan Howard talk 52-points and sharpshooting
So it goes in the Howard family, and has for a while. The boys were born in New Jersey, but the family moved to Arizona in 2002 as a better place for Chuck’s strength and conditioning business. A former football player at Indiana, he was strength coach for eight years for Grand Canyon University’s athletic teams, and now has moved into a corporate wellness position, partly because he would have more weekend time to watch his sons play. Noemi works at the college at a fitness center.
They raised three sons who loved to be active, in a home with a basketball court and swimming pool in the back, and the formal dining room turned into a fitness center. “They’d go from the pool to the basketball court, back to the pool,” Chuck said.
The sibling competition on the court must have been fierce. “There was a mutual respect. I think they had a lot of fun with it,” Chuck said. “Being the youngest myself — I have two older brothers — Markus and I kind of have that bond, being the third-born. He’d be the one coming in crying, saying the boys did something. He’d be fighting to keep up. He’s the kid at the halftime of the game, to be on the floor shooting 3s as just a little guy.
“When they played, they played hard against each other, and Markus always got the short end of the stick. But he caught up pretty quick.”Jordan, meanwhile, was a big fan of the movie Space Jam, which starred another Jordan. “He would mimic Michael Jordan’s shot,” Chuck said. “We have videos of him when he was probably two or three, and he had the perfect follow-through. Jordan’s a natural.”
Given how their shooting percentages make the stat sheets melt, imagine what the family games of H-O-R-S-E were like. “It was always a comedy show when dad went out,” Chuck said. “They loved me to go out and shoot with them because they thought it was funny. But for those guys, those were forever games. They hardly ever ended.”
The sons grew to be high achievers on the court and in the classroom. What the Howard home didn’t need was high ceilings. Jordan and Markus are 5-11, Desmond 5-10, Chuck 5-10 and half, Noemi 5-3. She had tall brothers and figured to produce at least one son 6-3 or 6-4. “I thought for sure we would,” he said. “But it didn’t happen.”
Size hasn’t mattered much in their output, but it has in a lot of first impressions.
Chuck: “I wouldn’t say it’s a sore subject but we don’t like to hear that. They’re not the biggest guards out there. Everybody talks about their height and that gives you a little chip, and they have to overcome those things.”
Noemi: “The boys have never gotten, I don’t think, the credit they deserve for all the hard work they put in, and we know it’s because of their height. Every interview is about their height. Every interview. For us, we’re like, it is what it is guys, and now you’ve got to play with a little bit bigger chip on your shoulder.”
Grand Canyon is developing a good basketball program with former NBA star Dan Majerle as coach, but neither Jordan nor Markus considered it. “Too close to home,” Chuck said. Markus pondered joining Jordan at Central Arkansas, but decided Marquette was a better fit. Both suddenly were far away from that backyard court.“We’ve always wanted the best for them, so we were willing to make that sacrifice,” Noemi said. “We were willing to do whatever it took, whether it would be traveling or Facetiming or phone calls to stay in touch.”
Not to mention juggling viewing times at home. Who gets more worked up more during a game?
Noemi: “Definitely him. No doubt about that.”
Chuck: “I’m not going to lie. I have to take walks, get the legs moving, arms flailing sometimes. The good thing is, when I go in public I’m pretty good.”
They look forward to the rest of a magical season, and yearn for a dream ending. What if, by chance, both sons end up in the NCAA tournament, playing in distant cities on the same day? Where would they go?
“I guess we’d flip a coin,” Chuck said. Actually, they’d probably watch Jordan, because he’s the senior. They’ll cross that March when they get to it. For now, Chuck and Noemi Howard will watch every bounce of two of the nation’s most productive players. So long as the technology holds out.