Michigan's Juwan Howard fired up after adding transfers Chaundee Brown, Nojel Eastern

©Detroit Free Press

Michigan basketball hasn’t officially announced the additions of Wake Forest guard Chaundee Brown and Purdue wing Nojel Eastern, but that didn’t stop coach Juwan Howard from gushing about them.

Howard discussed both newcomers in a Twitter video released Wednesday night by Big Ten Network. Since it’s an NCAA violation to openly talk about unsigned players, Brown and Eastern have likely signed.

On May 14, Eastern’s transfer came as a shock. He entered the portal 48 hours prior and previously declared for the NBA draft twice. It’s unclear if he will be forced to sit out the 2020-21 season or gain immediate eligibility.

Five days later, Brown made his decision. His top four schools in late April included Gonzaga, LSU, Illinois and Iowa State. Then, all of a sudden, Michigan was in the mix. He has a chance at immediate eligibility because of Wake Forest coach Danny Manning’s firing in April.

Michigan’s two newest transfers — joining Columbia graduate transfer point guard Mike Smith — leave Howard feeling better about his roster, after missing out on two five-star prospects and losing three players to the transfer portal this offseason.

In 23 games last season, Brown, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard, averaged 12.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists, making 32.2% of his 3s.

“He’s a tough-nosed competitor, played in the ACC, has been a three-year starter since his freshman year, played for a great coach in Danny Manning,” Howard said. “I know Danny a little bit. We were (NBA) teammates (in 2001-02) in Dallas. Chaundee has the habits of what it takes to win.”

Most of Howard’s knowledge about Brown has been gained through recent Zoom calls. Howard described him as someone who knows “what he wants in life,” is a successful student and comes from a family background that “raised him right.” Manning told Howard his new guard will be a “total team guy.”

“If all goes well, whenever the NCAA decided to allow him to play, whether it’s this year or next year, we’re going to be happy to have him be a part of our team because he provides something that’s special,” Howard said.

In the 2018-19 season, Eastern started 35 of 36 games and helped Purdue reach the Elite Eight by averaging 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists on 50.5% shooting. He struggled last season, producing 4.9 points per game on 42.8% shooting.

Howard said the 6-foot-7, 225-pound wing is a “matchup problem” and left him “scratching my head” in two meetings with Purdue last season.

“He has a lot to prove as a player, like all do,” Howard said. “He wants to get better. He’s really big on, ‘Hey coach,’ and this is from his own mouth, ‘I want to get better. There are a lot of areas of my game I feel I can work on and I’m willing to put in the work.’ I love guys that are honest with themselves, a guy that’s a competitor, a guy that’s a worker.

“With that type of DNA, I think that’s special.”

Howard has his own uncertainties about the upcoming season, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s tough to really understand and navigate how we can plan for what we’re being told as far as the possibility of having a season,” Howard said. “First we have to see if there is going to be a season.”

On March 12, the NCAA canceled March Madness, all remaining winter and spring sports. It developed a recruiting dead period that has since been extended through July 31. Even though college football and basketball players can return to their schools June 1 for voluntary workouts, Michigan hasn’t announced if it will allow them to do so.

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©2020 Detroit Free Press