The Wolverine

June/July 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JUNE/JULY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 47 2017 BASKETBALL RECRUITING ISSUE BY CHRIS BALAS M ichigan head coach John Beilein has hauled in — and coached up — a number of great recruits over the years, and his knowledge of basketball often a difference maker during the decision process. Ironically, though, it was baseball that helped him break the ice with, and eventually land, the state of Michigan's Mr. Basketball. Kalamazoo Central's Isaiah Liv- ers (6-8, Rivals.com's No. 132 senior nationally) captured the award after averaging 17.5 points, 14.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks during the regular sea- son. He led his team to a regional title for the first time in four years and a berth in the state quarterfinals, doing it as a Michigan signee after pledging last summer and signing in November. "It all started with Coach Beilein after I met him for the first time after my baseball game," Livers recalled. "I had just got done and was in my uniform. I said, 'What's up Coach B?' He said, 'Hey … you play baseball?'" That opened the floodgates, and the two became fast friends. Beilein often talked about Livers' sense of humor and affable personality after the youngster signed, and the two would go back and forth between the St. Louis Cardinals (Beilein's favorite team) and the Detroit Tigers (Livers') — though Beilein, ever the recruiter, always made it clear the Tigers were his American League squad. The bond wasn't enough to earn a scholarship, of course. Livers needed to earn that on the court, and Beilein told him last summer in no uncertain terms he needed to be more aggres- sive to receive an offer. Rather than float on the perimeter, where he's become more than ad- ept as a stretch four (shooting power forward) the last two years, Livers started to attack the basket and show off his ridiculous athleticism. Beilein had seen enough to offer, and Livers knew Michigan was his best fit. He chose the Wolverines over Michigan State and others. "That is one of the reasons I com- mitted," he said. "I fit their system a lot better than I do other colleges out there. There's a lot more I know I can do, and I feel like people don't know I can do that. I'm ready to break out at Michigan." Beilein appeared to face an uphill battle given that Livers' father, once a fan of Michigan's Fab Five, had be- come a Michigan State fan in recent years. But the first visit was enough to convince both father and son that U-M had everything they were look- ing for in a school and a basketball program. "It was pretty funny … my dad was the one who when we were walking out after the visit to Michigan opened his eyes at me and said, 'I like this col- lege,'" Livers recalled with a laugh. "I said, 'Yeah … me too.' "It had a different feeling in ev- erything about it. My dad and I both had a different feeling compared to other schools when we left campus. Ann Arbor is a great place to be." In Livers, Beilein is getting ex- actly what he looks for in a player, Central head coach Ramsey Nich- ols has said repeatedly— a selfless player always looking to make the right play within the structure of the offense. He's unselfish almost to a fault at times, cares about the suc- cess of his teammates as much as his own and is as humble as they come. Don't confuse that with lack of personal motivation, though. The first time he learned of the Hal Sch- ram Mr. Basketball Award a few years back, he set his eyes on the honor and made it a goal. "I'd been working for it since my sophomore year, when I first heard about it," Livers said. "I didn't know at the time they had awards like that, but I thought, 'Mr. Bas- ketball, that sounds interesting.' In AAU ball that summer I kept think- ing about it and said, 'I'm going to try to get this award.'" He became the school's first Mr. Basketball and admitted it was a dream come true when he found out. At the same time, he knows his ca- reer is just getting started. A 3.6 stu- dent, he plans to major in business at U-M and knows there's plenty more in front of him if he keeps working hard. "I'm hoping to get a lot more things like that in my career, but that's a good start," he said. "I hope to make an impact right away. They told me to work hard over the sum- mer — I'm going to do whatever they need me to do." ❏ BEST IN STATE Michigan's Mr. Basketball, Isaiah Livers, Is Ready To Start His U-M Career The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan has awarded the state's Mr. Bas ketball honor every year since 1981. Livers will be the 11th to go from winning the title to Ann Arbor, and the first since Manny Harris in 2007. PHOTO COURTESY KALAMAZOO PUBLIC SCHOOLS Livers, who is the nation's No. 132 overall player according to Rivals, led Kalamazoo Central to its first regional title in four years. PHOTO COURTESY KALAMAZOO PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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