INDIANAPOLIS — The back-to-back Tennessee and Michigan press conferences on Friday took a detour, with both sides talking about the recruitment of [Jett Howard](//247sports.com/Player/Jett-Howard-46077028) .
The four-star small forward and son of Michigan coach [Juwan Howard](//247sports.com/Player/Juwan-Howard-59352) was the link between the two programs.The Vols recruited him as hard as any program last fall, before he ultimately decided to play for his dad and sign the Wolverines.
[Jett Howard](//247sports.com/Player/Jett-Howard-46077028) was the link between [Juwan Howard](//247sports.com/Player/Juwan-Howard-59352) and Tennessee freshman point guard [Juwan Howard](//247sports.com/Player/Juwan-Howard-59352) , too.
“I got a chance to know Kennedy back when my youngest son, Jett, and Kennedy played in AAU,” Howard said Saturday night, “and they won the [LeBron James](//247sports.com/Player/LeBron-James-62951) tournament in Ohio.So we had a relationship back then.”
The viral image after Howard’s 11th-seeded Michigan team upset No.3 Tennessee 76-68 Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Gainbridge Fieldhouse was Howard consoling an emotional Chandler.
Chandler pulled his jersey up to cover the tears in his eyes as Howard talked into his ear.Chandler bent over, overcome by emotion, then stood up as Howard pulled him back in for another hug.
Michigan head coach — ?????????????? ???????? (@exavierpope) [Juwan Howard] embracing Tennessee freshman [Kennedy Chandler] after leading his team to Sweet 16 a touching [#MarchMadness] moment [pic.twitter.com/2k73rErEpk] [March 20, 2022]
“Just watching his growth, I’ve always been impressed,” Howard said.“We recruited him, unfortunately, we wasn’t that lucky, but to see the output, the effort, the growth and being able to produce like that on the floor and how he led his team in a special way.
“I gave him words of encouragement.
It shows his emotion, that he cares.As coaches, you appreciate that.”
Chandler finished with 19 points and nine assists and four rebounds for Tennessee (27-8) in the loss.
“Kennedy is an elite player,” Howard said, “and he’s one of the best guards in the country.”
Chandler, dating back to October, had talked openly about his goal to lead the Vols to their first Final Four and play for a national championship.
They led 60-54 with 8:27 left Saturday, before Michigan went on a 14-4 game-changing run, bringing an abrupt end to Tennessee’s season.
“He said to keep my head up,” Chandler said of the moment he shared with Howard.“It’s tough for me, and he knew I wanted to get the win.I know him.I’ve played with his son since, like, 4th grade.So I know him for a long time.
“He’s a great coach,” Chandler added.
“I love him.He told me to keep my head up and you played your heart out, that’s what he told me.”
Chandler after the game declined to answer what’s next in his basketball career .He’s projected as a late first-round pick in most NBA mock drafts after coming to Tennessee as a five-star prospect and the No.1 overall point guard in the country in the 2021 recruiting cycle.
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He led the Vols in both scoring, at 13.9 points per game, and assists, at 4.7.
He was second in minutes, at 30.7 per game, starting in all 34 games he played this season.
“He is just a great kid, a teammate,” Tennessee coach [Rick Barnes](//247sports.com/Coach/Rick-Barnes-1202) said.“He never, ever made it about him.
I don’t think he ever walked in acting like I’m a one-and-done player.I don’t think that at all.
He came in wanting to win.”
“You probably saw his emotion,” Barnes added.“It was much more than that in the locker room, because this is a group of guys that are extremely close.They really have bonded in a way that doesn’t often happen anymore.”.