Markus Howard wants to end Marquette career on high note

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              Marquette's Markus Howard reacts after making a 3-pointer during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
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MILWAUKEE — Markus Howard will leave Marquette as one of the most dynamic scorers in Big East history. He has the most career points of any active Division I player and leads the nation in points per game this season.

The one achievement that has eluded the 5-foot-11 senior guard is an NCAA Tournament victory. Howard is seeking one last chance to rectify that.

“It means a lot to win in March,” Howard said. “As a team, it’s something we haven’t accomplished. It’s something personally I haven’t accomplished. We’re definitely working toward making that goal a realization.”

First the Golden Eagles must get into the tournament.

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Ranked 18th just three weeks ago, Marquette (18-12) has lost six of its last seven games. Although many mock brackets still have Marquette in the NCAA field, the Golden Eagles could help their cause by winning their first Big East Tournament game Thursday against No. 16 Seton Hall (21-9) in New York.

“I think we’ve done enough, but at the same time, I still feel there’s a lot more we can do to help solidify ourselves,” Howard said. “I think throughout the season we’ve shown glimpses of a team that can really, really contend down the stretch in March, but I think this time of the year we still have to kind of make ourselves known and kind of have to prove ourselves.’’

An extended NCAA Tournament run would mark a fitting finish to an illustrious career.

Howard’s 1,587 career points in Big East games shattered former Syracuse star Lawrence Moten’s 25-year-old conference record. His 28.7 points per game in league play this season broke the previous Big East record of 27.8, set by Boston College’s Troy Bell in 2002-03.

“He gives me nightmares, that kid,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said.

Howard has a Division I-leading 27.8 points per game this season after scoring 25 points per game last year. His 2,761 career points rank 21st in Division I history.

“He’s done historic things in an historic league,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “That alone in itself would make coaching him fun, but he’s been a world-class kid and he’s been an incredible ambassador not only for our program but for our entire university.’’

Howard’s proudest achievement is one he shares with his family.

His brother, Jordan, played at Central Arkansas from 2015-18 and was a Southland Conference player of the year. The Howards’ 5,285 combined points are an NCAA record for a brother duo.

“Just to have something where both of our names are in the record books is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Howard said.

Jordan Howard says he isn’t surprised by his younger brother’s accomplishments because of the “relentless pursuit to work” that Markus has always displayed.

“Even in college, we’d FaceTime each other,” Jordan Howard said. “It would be a Friday night, 10:30 or 11 at night, everyone’s out, I’d FaceTime him and I’d be in the gym and he’d be in the gym as well. It would be like, ‘OK, we’re on the same page.’ “

Markus Howard said he developed into an elite scorer in part because of all the time he spent playing with his older brothers while growing up in Arizona. His oldest brother, Desmond, works as a basketball instructor.

“They really worked him,” said Howard’s father, former Indiana running back Chuck Howard. “They challenged him daily. There were many times he’d come in crying and feeling like wasn’t being treated right, but his brothers always worked hard and really challenged him.’’

After initially committing to Arizona State, Howard left home and adapted to Milwaukee’s frigid winters.

Howard now says he wouldn’t have wanted to play anywhere else.

“Being out of my comfort zone was, I think, something that needed to happen for me in order for me to grow,” said Howard, who will graduate in May with a major in digital media and minor in advertising.

Howard has spent the last four years showing the Big East just what he’d learned back home.

Rival coaches consider Howard particularly difficult to guard because he can score in so many different ways. His range extends well beyond the 3-point line. He hits midrange floaters. He drives to the rim with no fear.

“Frankly, I’m not sure he received the national credit that he deserves,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “He’s one of the best scorers to ever play college basketball, in my opinion.”

More acclaim could arrive if Howard were to make an impact in March.

Howard’s 26 points couldn’t prevent Marquette from losing to Murray State in the first round last year. Howard scored 13 points in his only other NCAA Tournament game – a 2017 loss to South Carolina.

Marquette’s second consecutive late-season slide has created skepticism about the Golden Eagles’ postseason prospects, but Howard remains confident.

“I think we have a team that’s really primed to go on a run,” Howard said.