Michael Jordan’s NBA return in 2001 sparked a fire inside Isaiah Livers. But not for the reason you might think.
Livers, born in 1998, couldn’t understand the significance of Jordan’s return – he joined the Washington Wizards after retiring from the Chicago Bulls in 1999 – but he enjoyed all the hoopla surrounding Jordan’s comeback.
“I was watching it with my dad and I was like, ‘Everybody’s making a big fuss,’ ” Livers recalled. “I kept hearing, ‘He, he, he.’ I was like, ‘Who is he?’ My dad said, ‘Michael Jordan.’
“I was just his little son; I didn’t keep up with sports. When he came back to the Wizards, I was like, ‘I want to get to where he’s at.’ He was getting all the fuss. I was like, ‘I want that big fuss.’ ”
Years later, Livers got his wish: He’s now the big fuss.
On Monday afternoon, the Kalamazoo Central forward was named the 37th recipient of the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award, given annually to the state’s top senior by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, in conjunction with the Detroit Free Press.
The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Livers, a Michigan signee, received 2,811 points, edging Grand Rapids Christian star and Michigan State signee Xavier Tillman’s 2,739 points in one of the award’s closest finishes. Livers said he received a congratulatory text from Tillman before the ceremony.
Tillman got more first place votes (363 to 333) than his longtime friend and former AAU teammate, but Livers had more second-place votes (313-249) and third-place votes (207-177). Points are awarded on a 5-3-1 basis. Only BCAM members are permitted to vote. There were 1,212 coaches who voted.
Livers and Tillman can discuss the final voting when Kalamazoo Central (21-3) and Grand Rapids Christian (25-0) face off in a Class A state quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Lansing Eastern. The winner will move on to the state semifinals Thursday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Kalamazoo Central lost to Tillman’s squad, 53-51 in overtime, in the regular-season finale March 2 in Kalamazoo.
“That’s not our ultimate goal,” Livers said of possibly beating Grand Rapids Christian. “We want the state title. We want a ring on our finger.”
Powers North Central’s Jason Whitens (1,911 points) finished third in the voting, followed by Detroit East English Village’s Greg Elliott (1,672), North Farmington’s Amauri Hardy (988) and Detroit Cornerstone’s Jamal Cain (787).
Livers, who averaged 17.5 points, 14 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in the regular season, became the first Kalamazoo Central player to win Mr. Basketball. Former University of Detroit Jesuit standout Cassius Winston, now at Michigan State, claimed last year’s honor.
“This award means a lot,” said Livers, who was joined by his father, Morris, mother, Angela, and younger sister, Kennedy, at Monday’s announcement at the Free Press. “My dad told me, ‘It’s a recognition of your hard work.’ I respect this award so much and so many great players have won it.”
Kalamazoo Central coach Ramsey Nichols is no stranger to high school superstars. He coached 2005 Mr. Basketball winner Wilson Chandler at Benton Harbor.
“He cares for the people around him, and it shows on the court,” Nichols said of Livers. “Isaiah could average 30 points a game, if he wanted to be that kind of scorer. But he’s a team-oriented player. He does everything within the confines of our offense, our team.”
Morris Livers never imagined his son would win Mr. Basketball, although he noticed a fierce intensity from Isaiah when he was training between his junior and senior seasons.
“It’s surreal. It still hasn’t hit home yet,” Morris Livers said. “A few days from now, I’ll probably be like, ‘Wow, my son is Mr. Basketball.’
“Isaiah gets a lot of support around the entire (Kalamazoo) community; I think he’s got a fan club. After games, he has to run to the locker room. He’s like a rock star. People are trying to get autographs, pictures. When he comes out, they just mob him.”
Isaiah’s teammates were happy to see him win Mr. Basketball.
“This past summer was his best improvement,” said Maroon Giants senior forward Bass Ollie, who also attended the ceremony. “He lost weight and pretty much changed positions. He was more of a post player, and now he’s a wing and handles the ball a lot. He sprouted and made a name for himself.”
Here are the results of the 37th annual Hal Schram Mr. Basketball award, given by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, in conjunction with the Detroit Free Press. Only BCAM members are permitted to vote. Points are awarded on a 5-3-1 basis:
Player, school, points, first-place votes, second-place votes, third-place votes
1. Isaiah Livers, Kalamazoo Central, 2,811 points, 333, 313, 207
2. Xavier Tillman, Grand Rapids Christian, 2,739 points, 363, 249, 177
3. Jason Whitens, Powers North Central, 1,911 points, 236, 173, 212
4. Greg Elliott, Detroit East English Village, 1,672 points, 145, 241, 224
5. Amauri Hardy, North Farmington, 988 points, 85, 120, 203
6. Jamal Cain, Detroit Cornerstone, 787 points, 50, 116, 189
Past winners of the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award
2016 Cassius Winston, U-D Jesuit (Michigan State)
2015 Deyonta Davis, Muskegon (Michigan State)
2014 Deshaun Thrower, Muskegon (Stony Brook)
2013 Monte Morris, Flint Beecher (Iowa State)
2012 Matt Costello, Bay City Western (Michigan State)
2011 Dwaun Anderson, Suttons Bay (Wagner)
2010 Keith Appling, Detroit Pershing (Michigan State)
2009 Derrick Nix, Detroit Pershing (Michigan State)
2008 Brad Redford, Frankenmuth (Xavier)
2007 Corperryale (Manny) Harris, Detroit Redford (Michigan)
2006 David Kool, Grand Rapids South Christian (Western Michigan)
2005 Wilson Chandler, Benton Harbor (De Paul)
2004 Drew Neitzel, Wyoming Park (Michigan State)
2003 Dion Harris, Detroit Redford (Michigan)
2002 Paul Davis, Rochester (Michigan State)
2001 Kelvin Torbert, Flint Northwestern (Michigan State)
2000 Marcus Taylor, Lansing Waverly (Michigan State)
1999 Jason Richardson, Saginaw Arthur Hill (Michigan State)
1998 Dane Fife, Clarkston (Indiana)
1997 Shane Battier, Birmingham Detroit Country Day (Duke)
1996 Winfred Walton, Detroit Pershing (Syracuse, Fresno State)
1995 Robert Traylor, Detroit Murray-Wright (Michigan)
1994 Willie Mitchell, Detroit Pershing (Michigan, UAB)
1993 Jon Garavaglia, Southgate Aquinas (Michigan State)
1992 Kenyon Murray, Battle Creek Central (Iowa)
1991 Chris Webber, Birmingham Detroit Country Day (Michigan)
1990 Anthony Miller, Benton Harbor (Michigan State)
1989 Michael Talley, Detroit Cooley (Michigan)
1988 Matt Steigenga, Grand Rapids South Christian (Michigan State)
1987 Mark Macon, Saginaw Buena Vista (Temple)
1986 Terry Mills, Romulus (Michigan)
1985 Glen Rice, Flint Northwestern (Michigan)
1984 Demetreus Gore, Detroit Chadsey (Pittsburgh)
1983 Antoine Joubert, Detroit Southwestern (Michigan)
1982 Robert Henderson, Lansing Eastern (Michigan)
1981 Sam Vincent, Lansing Eastern (Michigan State)