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‘It comes at you fast’: Jett Howard talks being drafted by Orlando Magic, close friendship with Kobe Bufkin

Ann Arbor holds a special place in Howard’s heart.

NBA: NBA Draft Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The last week has been a blur for Jett Howard, who was drafted 11th overall by the Orlando Magic in the NBA Draft. Playing in the NBA has been a dream for him since he was a kid, and now that he’s months away from playing in his first professional game, he said it still doesn’t feel real.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, it comes at you fast,” Howard said on the Defend the Block podcast. “Now we’re just focused on work. It hasn’t really sunk in yet, it’s surreal.”

Howard wasn’t the only Wolverine drafted that night, as his teammate and good friend Kobe Bufkin was selected by the Atlanta Hawks four picks later. Howard and Bufkin got close over this season and were thrilled to see each get to the next level.

“When I saw him on the TV, that almost brought me to tears because we were so close,” Howard said. “We both thought we could get drafted, but it’s hard to see because you got to be realistic with yourself. I called him that night and I facetimed him two days ago. Our dreams are coming true, and you just want to build off of it now. It’s a good feeling.”

Howard had an inkling he would get picked by the Magic based on how he performed in a private session with the team, saying he did “really well” during his workout and that he “had a good feeling it was a possibility” to be picked by them.

Howard and Boesch compared the rush of being drafted and doing all the interviews to a carwash, with it all moving so fast and not giving you time to think. Howard said he was proud of the work he had done up to that point, and was glad he got a few brief moments with his family in between all the media appearances and photos he had to take.

“I’m getting over to my family and I just broke down,” Howard said. “That’s when it started to hit me, like ‘damn, I did it,’ I just broke down.”

After Howard was drafted, he made it to Orlando the next morning, met the staff and then went back to Ann Arbor the following day to start working out. He reiterated he has a special connection to the Michigan program, which will always feel like a second home to him.

“My last exit meeting I cried. I wanted to win here and got a chance play with my brothers,” Howard said. “It’s hard to turn down your dream. If it wasn’t for that, I would definitely come back. It’s bittersweet, I wanted to work out with them today. You feel like you have unfinished business here.”

Back in Ann Arbor, Howard has gotten the chance to meet a lot of the new faces in Michigan’s program. He’s excited for the veteran players who were added in the portal, and he likes the direction the squad is heading.

“A lot of the new people I’m cool with, Olivier (Nkamhoua), Nimari (Burnett), pretty much all the freshman,” Howard said. “To see them all click together is a good feeling. I think we’ll be really good. We don’t have as much hype coming in — we have a lot of guys that play basketball at a high level already. Experience is better than youth, you saw that last year.”

We’ve heard many former players speak about the brotherhood surrounding Michigan basketball, and Howard clearly wants to be a part of that. In fact, he’s already pitching in on the recruiting trail.

“When I went out to California to train for this pre-draft process, I was still getting on calls with recruits to answer questions for them,” Howard said. “Anything from a recruiting standpoint, I’m always going to throw my pitch in there. If they need anything they can always call me, and vice versa.”

Howard heads back to Orlando next week to train for the NBA Summer League. He’ll take a brief vacation after that before getting ready for training camp and kicking off his first NBA season.