The 2015-2016 basketball season was one of evolution for Isaiah Livers. The 2017 Kalamazoo (Mich.) Central forward committed himself to taking his game to another level, and that is exactly what he did.
"(The season) went great,” said Livers. “I changed my whole philosophy coming into the game… focusing before the games. I guess I can say I took it a lot more seriously. I could get paid playing this sport so I took a different approach coming into game time. (On the court) I changed my whole game. I went from post to wing. I worked on my ball handling and improved my jump shot. I can guard point guards now and I can guard down low.
When the curtain fell on the 6-8, 215-pounder’s junior campaign he’d averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks to help propel his team to a district championship. With that came increased attention on the recruiting front. Offers from mid majors like Butler, Creighton, DePaul, and Dayton followed. Then Minnesota jumped into the fray on the high major front, and many more could be on the horizon.
“Hopefully a lot of the schools I talk to right now are really close (to offering)," said Livers. "Like Oklahoma State is really close, California is really close (edt. note.. Cal offered subsequent to this interview), Illinois is really close, Michigan State is close, Michigan is really close."
The Wolverines have been especially active in Livers’ recruitment recent weeks and hosted the rising senior-to-be on a visit that set the by which all others would be measured.
"June 22nd was the day of the visit… it was on a Wednesday… it blew me away,” said Livers. “It was so far ahead of the other colleges I've been to. The University of Michigan was what you’d expect. It blew my mind, my dad was blown away. It just caught our attention, out of all the schools they're just ahead of everybody. They have the technology. What I like the most is the angle shooting (machine). You would shoot, and you would turn it on, and it would say what your angle was on the jump shot so you could fix it. It was really sweet. That school just blew me away. They’re academics of course are outstanding. It's just crazy. I'm going into business, so it kind of helps having a top ten school in the country."
As impressive as all of that was, the Livers seemed to be even more in awe of the Wolverine coaching staff.
"Coach Saadi (Washington), he started talking to me when he was at Oakland and then our relationship just grew from there,” he said of one of Michigan’s new assistants. “That's probably one of the coolest coaches that I've talked to. That's one of the coaches I won't forget, he's pretty impressive."
Livers’ relationship with Washington was longstanding. His relationship with Beilein wasn’t… but during the visit it sure felt like it was.
"It's like I (already) knew the guy. I always heard he was like one of those cool recruiting coaches. Like he was one of the best recruiting coaches in the country, he interacts with you and your family no matter what. He has no hate against nobody, he was a really cool. He and Tom Izzo are really like the best recruiting coaches in the country."
"(Beilein) was just 100 with me, he said his goal is to get me to the league. He wants me to improve my jump shot… he wants me to improve everything so I can be that combo forward for the University of Michigan. He pulled a clips of what I would be doing where Zak Irvin played, Caris LeVert or I could even be Kameron Chatman and be that big that can go in the corner and shoot. He said he wants me to do it all and that's what stood out to me. He was straight up with it. He said the first week of August he's going to get me down and we're going to talk and the offer will be right there."
Livers is believes that scholarship will be extended based on what he is confident will be a strong July with his AAU team, Mean Streets. The talented youngster has been a key contributor for the program headed up by former Michigan football standout Tai Streets and led on the floor by fellow Michigan targets Brian Bowen and Nojel Eastern.
"He hasn't really had a chance to watch to me play, you know how he lost most of his coaching staff so he really couldn't see me play. He wanted to see me because he has more help now and come down to watch me in July."
If and when that offer comes the Wolverines will undoubtedly among the favorites to land him, but there are a number of other schools that will have something to say about where he ultimately ends up.
"One of (the schools sticking out) is Butler so far. Minnesota, Dayton is up there."
I had my list at 10 but I haven't put it down to five yet, so it’s open. Anybody can talk to me at this point, I will still hear what they have to say. Me and my family we all like a certain different school we talk about all the time but I like Butler a lot. Michigan State a lot, Michigan a lot. California is getting up there, Oklahoma State is getting really high. I talk to Dayton here and there on a daily basis, but I guess I could tell you this. The school I talk to the most on a daily basis would be Michigan. I talk to an assistant every day, every two or three days Beilein will call or text me. That's cool."
When decision time finally rolls around... and he hopes it will before the start of the season… Livers already knows what it will come down to.
"Definitely how the coaches plan to use me… that is always number one,” he said. “Definitely the coaching relationship that I have… the relationship I have with the coaching staff and definitely the team I am going to be playing with. I don't want to play with a bunch of (difficult guys), excuse my language. The second one will definitely be the atmosphere. If the fans are jumping and I will be on a whole different level. If they're popping and jumping like that, but that's no disrespect to a small school which a small amount of fans, but you know what I'm saying. I like the big games. Number is three is what my family and friends think."