Robin No More, LeVert Ready to Star as Batman

With Nik Stauskas in the NBA, Michigan junior Caris LeVert is Michigan's go to guy offensively following a strong sophomore year, ready to handle everything thrown at him from opposing defenses.

CHICAGO -- Michigan junior Caris LeVert had a front row seat a season ago as teammate and now Sacramento King Nik Stauskas earned Big Ten Player of the Year honors.

But that season for Stauskas didn’t come without some struggles in the early going as defenses keyed on him, often sending double teams, even resorting to face guarding to throw the Canadian native off his game.

Still, Stauskas managed to score 17.5 points per game to lead the Wolverines while LeVert, also enjoying a big sophomore year, averaged 12.9.

Now a year later, LeVert, a Preseason All-Big Ten selection heading into the 2014-15 campaign, can expect to prepare for the same as he transitions from Robin to Batman in the Michigan offense.

“The opportunity is going to present itself for me to have the ball in my hands a little more this year,” LeVert said Thursday at Big Ten media day.

“I’ve really prepared myself for that, the coaches have prepared me for that and I place a big responsibility in my hands for that so, I’m ready to handle that aspect of the game.”

Although Stauskas received all of the awards and accolades on his way to becoming the No. 8 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, LeVert isn’t exactly inexperienced being Michigan’s go to guy.

In a non-conference loss at Duke, Stauskas was essentially rendered useless as the Blue Devils took No. 11 out of the game, leaving LeVert with the ball to create and score, finishing with 24-points on 8-of-18 shooting.

LeVert also finished the 2013-14 season as an All-Big Ten second team selection.

“He was in it a bit last year,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “I mean, there were several games where we just went to him because people were doing things with Nik or with Glenn (Robinson III), Jordan Morgan, Mitch (McGary), so we just went with him. 

“He's sort of used to it.  I love his personality because he doesn't let things bother him very much, so I don't think he gets too excited or he gets too worried about either situation.”

Embracing the expectations as Michigan’s new No. 1 option offensively, LeVert is also hoping to be unfazed from a mental aspect, something he also learned from Stauskas.

“Nik definitely took a step forward from his freshman to his sophomore year, just in his mindset,” LeVert said. “And I think I can kind of implement that into my game as well.”

Physically, LeVert missed a significant amount of time this off-season with a stress fracture in his foot, opting for surgery.

Despite missing so much time, with added practices, the four exhibition games in Italy and now over two months to get back to where he was last off-season, LeVert says he’s ready to go.

“I still stayed in Ann Arbor even though I was out 11 weeks,” LeVert said. “I still built up my upper body, I stayed off my lower body for those 11 weeks but I’ve been getting back into the groove, squatting, and things like that so my body is feeling great right now.”

Michigan opens up the season with an exhibition contest Nov. 10 against Wayne State at Crisler Center.

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