Illini basketball hires Howard for vacant assitant position

By Adam Harris

Illinois Head Coach Bruce Weber has announced Jerrance Howard will replace Tracy Webster as an assistant coach on the Fighting Illini basketball staff, and Howard has big shoes to fill.

Webster left the program two weeks ago for Kentucky and took his heavy Chicago recruiting ties with him. Howard, a Peoria native, played for the Illini from 2001-2004. He was known more for his leadership than his play at the point guard position during his playing career, being named captain his junior and senior years while also backing up three All-Americans. He has spent the last three seasons as an administrative assistant at Texas A & M.

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Howard said he had an opportunity in Kentucky under Billy Gillespie as well as the opening in Champaign, but he came to Champaign because has a place in his heart for the Illini.

“Home is home, and when you experience what I did here at the University of Illinois, that stays with you forever. And when I say I bleed orange and blue I bleed orange and blue. No matter what, I can’t explain what it means to be here,” Howard said.

With his limited experience on the college coaching level, many have criticized Howard’s recruiting abilities. But head coach Bruce Weber said Howard’s experiences as an Illini player will help the orange and blue bring in the best Chicagoland prospects. “I think his positive attitude, that passion for our school and this program, I think that will show to the recruits that he can say ‘I played here, I played for Coach Weber, I know what it’s about,’ and I think will be more apt to listen.”

Howard’s duties will begin immediately with his new position, as he plans on heading to the Chicagoland area in the next couple of days to start recruiting prospects for the class of 2008.