Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Markus Howard aims to spread God's Word as he prepares for NBA Draft

When Markus Howard scored 30 points against St. John’s on March 7, his fifth consecutive 30-point game, the Marquette senior knew that marked the final regular-season game he’d ever play in college. He had no idea the disheartening 88-86 loss would close his storied collegiate career altogether.

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The Big East Tournament kicked off on March 11, and Marquette was slated to face Seton Hall on March 12. The game never took place. The rest of the tournament was canceled, then the NCAA Tournament was canceled, and the coronavirus pandemic threw the world into chaos.

Howard hopes his next game is with an NBA team. And he hopes to find out which team this week, as the 2020 NBA Draft virtually takes place Wednesday. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the draft will be conducted at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., rather than the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Instead of attending in person, Howard will watch the draft from his home in Arizona with his family.

Upon the abrupt conclusion of the 2019-20 season, Howard was leading the nation in scoring with 27.8 points per game. As a junior, he finished sixth in the country with 25.0 points per game. Scoring has always been his strongpoint, and figures to translate at the next level. However, because he’s only 5-foot-11, NBA teams appear wary. He’s widely projected as a second-round selection.

To prepare for the draft, Howard returned home to Gilbert, Arizona. He’s trained daily with his older brother, Desmond, on the court, and in the weight room with his father, Chuck. Markus’ other brother, Jordan, trained with the family as well before leaving for his pro basketball season in Puerto Rico. That family time has been a bright side during the pandemic.

“For me to be able to come home and train for the past six months has been a blessing,” Howard recently told 12 News in Phoenix.

The added family time has also continued to strengthen Howard’s faith in Christ. Chuck often prays with his sons before they train, and Markus says faith was always at the forefront of their home when the boys were growing up. And as the family has waited to find out where Markus goes next, they’ve relied on God.

“He’s had such a wonderful career,” Chuck told 12 News about Markus, “and for it to end like that, it was heartbreaking for us. However, we know we have no control over how things happen, but God is in control. So we rely on our faith, and that’s helped us get through it.”

“Glory always goes to God, no matter the success we have in this sport,” Markus told 12 News.

That was Howard’s approach at Marquette, right from the beginning when he needed to choose a number for his jersey. He chose “0.”

“First and foremost, I’m a Christian before anything else,” Howard said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in January. “I’m a son [of God], so I want to be sure that my number meant something and it represented something. It truly represents that without my relationship with Christ, I feel like I am not the person that I’m meant to be.”

He lived out that faith while at Marquette. To wit, he felt called to organize a Bible study for other student-athletes while they were on a mission trip in Costa Rica. By the end of trip, 50 to 60 people were listening to Howard share the Gospel. He wanted to continue that back on campus, so he helped start a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter upon realizing that Marquette didn’t already have one.

The FCA group started his junior year, and helping it grow and become established was a big factor in Howard returning to Marquette for his senior year, instead of pursing the NBA.

“I think that’s kind of the main thing that I’ve been placed on this earth to do, is to spread His Word through the sport,” Howard said on the podcast. “Being an athlete with a platform, you have to use it the right way, and I think keeping Him at the forefront of everything is definitely going to help people see and understand the great things He’s done.”

Howard’s platform will grow as he enters the NBA. He may not be a first-round pick, and he may not even get drafted. But Chuck Howard knows his youngest son will work his hardest to maximize the gifts God has given him.

“No matter how big or how small you are, you can’t measure your heart,” Chuck told 12 News. “And that’s the one thing I want young athletes to understand, is don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t, because God says you can.”

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