This is the first in a series of profiles on the six finalists for the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award, which will be announced March 20 at the Free Press.
Kalamazoo Central senior Isaiah Livers wrapped up the regular season as a finalist for the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award.
But now that the postseason is here, he’s focused on helping his team improve by getting the Maroon Giants (17-3) to what they call “Level 5.”
“Level 5 is where (Central coach Ramsey Nichols) says we should be at before March Madness starts or where we should be right in the middle of March Madness,” Livers said last week. “It’s not something you can get to automatically. We have to work harder as a team, play as a team and do everything right.”
Nichols developed his “Levels” evaluation system over his career. A Level 5 team shows up to practice on time, doesn’t goof around during drills or while Nichols is teaching, and does all the small things on the court correctly.
During summer workouts, Central hovered around Level 2. It got to Level 3 at the beginning of the season and has reached 4 at times, but the Maroon Giants still have work to do before they reach that fifth level.
Livers, a 6-foot-8 power forward who signed with Michigan in November, expects the Maroon Giants to be there when they open the Class A district tournament with a semifinal matchup at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Niles (6-15).
“We have not gotten to Level 5 yet this season,” Livers said. “We’ll play Level 4 some nights and drop to Level 3 some nights. The other night, we were playing at Level 3 as a team. I’m confident we’ll be playing up to Level 5 (by Wednesday).”
Livers was one of six finalists the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan named for the Mr. Basketball Award in late February. He was joined by Detroit Cornerstone’s Jamal Cain, Detroit East English Village’s Greg Elliott, North Farmington’s Amauri Hardy, Grand Rapids Christian’s Xavier Tillman and Powers North Central’s Jason Whitens.
Individually, Livers has been preparing himself for college, working on the things U-M coach John Beilein wants the senior to improve on before next season.
That includes shooting the ball more and being aggressive when opportunities arise for him to make a play or take a tough shot he’d normally pass up.
“Coach Beilein said I need to shoot the ball a lot more than I do,” he said. “Sometimes I find myself playing too much within in the offense and not creating enough shots for myself. I create a lot of shots for my teammates.
“Coach (Nichols) has said I’ve got a lot more confidence this season, and I think it’s the highest I’ve ever had because I’ve gotten stronger and been in the weight room three to five days a week and doing things to get quicker on my feet.”
Nichols said Livers, who averaged 17.5 points, 14 rebounds and 2.4 blocks during the regular season, will be a versatile player when he gets to college.
“He has improved every summer, and he’s added everything to his game,” Nichols said. “He can handle the ball like a point guard, and he’s increased his shooting range. He’s long and athletic, so he impacts the game, both offensively and defensively. He’s a great shot blocker with excellent vision.”
Livers is a pretty good teammate, too.
“He’s the ultimate team player,” Nichols continued. “He plays within our offense, and I would like him to be more assertive at times, but he’s a very disciplined ballplayer in our offense, and he doesn’t deviate from what we do as a team.
“He’s just as happy for his teammate’s success as his own.”