Livers has a smooth, consistent release. [Bryan Fuller]
My trip last Thursday to Kalamazoo didn't quite go as planned. 2017 hoops commit Isaiah Livers and Kalamazoo Central lost an overtime thriller to 2017 MSU commit Xavier Tillman and undefeated Grand Rapids Christian. I spent the game filming from the stands and planned to deliver a detailed scouting report once I had a chance to go back over the video; the bulk of the video got corrupted.
So this is going to be a little shorter and lighter on detail than I hoped. Maize & Go Blue's Sam Sedlecky, who was also in attendance, helpfully jotted down stats while I was too busy working the camera to take notes. Livers tallied 10 points (2/7 2P, 2/4 3P), 5 rebounds (with one impressive offensive board), 2 blocks, 3 steals, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, and 4 fouls.
Livers got off to a hot start, scoring seven points in the first quarter. He picked up his second and third fouls in quick succession in the second quarter, however, and never fully regained his rhythm in the second half.
It was still easy to see what John Beilein likes in Livers. He played within the confines of Central's offense; his one assist doesn't fairly represent his court vision and willingness to share the rock—if anything, he was too deferential at times. He displayed a fundamentally sound, consistent shooting form; his release is a touch long, but his size and elevation on his jumper helps cover for that, and he can shoot both spotting up or off the bounce.
Livers didn't get much going towards the basket in this game, likely due to his foul trouble and the interior presence of Tillman, who had five or six blocks and altered several other shots. While he's a good ballhandler for a 6'8" forward, he couldn't consistently get past opposing defenders off the dribble—he had the ball swiped away a couple times, including on a critical turnover in the late stages. He looks like he'll be a three-and-D player initially while he refines his offensive skill set.
His defense looked like a strength, especially in transition and on weakside help—those two situations are how he accrued his two blocks, one of which was an impressive chasedown on a fast break. He's got active hands, which had good and bad results in this game; he can be very disruptive but has to be better at picking his spots, especially once he has a foul or two. He showed the ability to stick with smaller players on the perimeter, which will be important—his best shot at contributing as a freshman is to show he can guard threes and stretch fours.
I'd like to see more of Livers before coming to a conclusion about his chances of cracking the rotation next year. Based on what I've seen of him so far, I like his chances of doing so. He looks like a natural spot-up shooter and he possesses the athleticism to develop into an excellent player on both ends. While he's not quite as big, he's got a similar skill set to DJ Wilson. Like Wilson, he's going to need to gain the strength to hold up inside and resist the temptation to float around the perimeter. Unlike Wilson, I think he can be a year-one contributor as a backup 3/4 so long as he shows some comfort in the offense.
The Post Defense Was... Good?
Michigan put up a surprisingly strong fight in the post. [Patrick Barron]
I don't think I was alone in thinking Wisconsin, boasting two strong post scorers in Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes, would crush Michigan in the paint on Tuesday night. Instead, Michigan limited the Happ/Hayes duo to shooting a combined 8-for-20 on two-pointers with six assists and four turnovers; they were the two least-efficient players among Badgers to play at least 12 minutes.
I went back through the game and pulled clips of every Wisconsin possession that went through the post. While Happ missed a couple makeable shots, Michigan generally played strong post defense, with both DJ Wilson and Moe Wagner standing out for the good:
Given how Michigan has played defense this year, the first thing that jumps out is their effort; they scrapped for post position, didn't give up on plays, and hit the deck for rebounds.
Wilson gave up an easy bucket to Hayes early when he got caught napping on a cut (0:29 mark) and couldn't recover in time to deny prime post position. He otherwise did quite well; he blocked Happ twice and forced a Hayes miss shortly after the aforementioned bucket by establishing good position and forcing him to spin for a tough left-handed attempt.
While Wagner wasn't quite as strong in the post, which allowed Happ to get good position on him multiple times, he used his hands quite well to disrupt Happ on the way up and pulled off the subtle "step in and bump the guy with your chest" thing that often throws off shots and rarely draws a whistle (0:39, 2:23). A couple paint baskets weren't on the bigs, either; I didn't include Vitto Brown getting isolated on Duncan Robinson, which ended in a layup (surprise!), and on the final clip Robinson rotates over to the open big way too late.
The notable exception to M's strong interior defense: Mark Donnal, who gave up an and-one and fouled Happ on the floor just before he could give up another on his two post defense possessions before getting yanked.
In his lone opportunity, Jon Teske gave up a second-chance bucket when he lost contact with Happ after an offensive rebound. I'd still like to see more of him out there; Donnal was physically overwhelmed on defense and once again a non-factor on offense, so Beilein might as well let his behomoth freshman big man work through his mistakes—Teske is much more likely to display significant in-season improvement than a guy in his fourth year in the program.
Michigan still had their fair share of defensive breakdowns, which I'll get to momentarily. That said, this was an encouraging performance on that end of the floor, especially in the paint. If the Wolverines can replicate that level of effort on defense while getting offensive outputs like they have in their non-Wisconsin Big Ten games, they can make a late tourney push. It's a huge if, of course, but it's hard not to feel better about this team after Tuesday night despite the loss.
[Hit THE JUMP for the aforementioned breakdowns, highlights of a couple 2017 commits, and more.]
The basketball program apparently wanted in on Commitmas, too. Michigan picked up their first hoops commit for 2018 yesterday when three-star Detroit East English Village Prep point guard David DeJulius chose the Wolverines mere days after getting the offer, which came on the heels of DeJulius pouring in 46 points in front of John Beilein.
While a Michigan offer didn't materialize until this week, Beilein had his eye on DeJulius for a long time, per TMI's Brice Marich:
“They have always been recruiting me, but just offered me a week ago,” DeJulius told The Michigan Insider. “I always grew up wanting to go to Michigan and I wanted to commit then when they offered, but I wanted to think and make sure it wasn’t just from my emotions. I wanted to think it through and make sure I was making the right decision. There is no better decision than this because it is such a great environment, great education and great program.
DeJulius said Beilein has watched him play "like 20 times" dating back to his freshman year, and assistant coach Saddi Washington was recruiting him back when Washington was at Oakland.
DeJulius is the first commit in the 2018 class. There's room for two more as the scholarship count currently stands; it's near-inevitable that one or two more spots will open up. He's the third point guard Michigan has taken in three classes, following freshman Xavier Simpson and 2017 commit Eli Brooks.
|4*, 83, #22 PG||
3*, 89, #22 PG,
3*, #32 PG,
Rankings for the 2018 class are all over the place as the various services catch up on scouting prospects. ESPN is the highest on DeJulius but has nothing in the way of a scouting report; Scout gave him a cursory two stars; Rivals and 247 split the difference.
DeJulius is listed between 6'0" (Scout, 247) and 6'2" (ESPN) and 188-190 pounds. While he's probably a point guard, at least primarily, he could slide over to the two in Beilein's system as well.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
Michigan's picked up their first 2018 commit, in-state PG David DeJulius. This is an old-school Beilein commit: early and somewhat unheralded, though he is a four-star on ESPN. Most other places have him a three star around #150. This courtship was a quick one, as he was just offered three days ago after Beilein saw him blow the doors off:
Following Saturday’s 98-49 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore, Michigan coach John Beilein would’ve been hard-pressed to witness a better offensive performance.
But hours later, Beilein watched Detroit East English Village junior point guard David DeJulius put on a show with 46 points on 13-for-17 shooting, including 9-for-11 on 3-pointers, in a 79-63 win over Macomb Dakota at Southfield A&T High’s “Battle of the Best” holiday tournament.
That got him his offer and he wasn't long in accepting it.
Ace will have a fuller post tomorrow, when the impending announcement of FL LB Jordan Anthony doesn't overlap.
No More Visits For Livers
Four-star Kalamazoo Central forward Isaiah Livers, who grew up in an MSU household, caught many people off-guard when he committed to Michigan over the weekend. Following his commitment, however, Livers told 247's Zach Shaw won't take visits to any other schools, and he also went into detail about how he'll be utilized by John Beilein:
“When I visited there in June, they pulled up highlights of like Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert, they want me to play a position like that,” the 6-foot-8 Livers said. “Kind of like a combo forward and when we get on a run still be able to drop down to the ‘4,’ guard the ‘4,’ hit the corner 3 and bang with the big dudes.
“They like when I’m super aggressive. They like when I’m active, cutting, trying to get the ball, taking it to the rack, drawing fouls, and just shooting it.”
Livers's commitment apparently caught even his AAU teammates off-guard, including one of particular interest to Michigan fans:
Insiders weren’t the only ones surprised at the news. 5-star prospect Brian Bowen, who played with Livers all summer and has been a long-time friend of Livers, thought he was heading to State, but was thrilled that he chose Michigan instead.
“At first he was just like ‘what?’ He didn’t think I was going to go there, he thought I was going to State too, he was shocked too,” Livers said.
MSU is the presumed favorite for Bowen. Hopefully his friendship with Livers will play a role in his recruitment. Shaw—a Daily alum and welcome addition to Wolverine247's coverage, I should note—also posted a pretty comprehensive (and free) overview of where Michigan stands with their main 2017 targets following Livers's pledge.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Four-star 2017 Kalamazoo Central forward Isaiah Livers, who picked up offers last month from Michigan and Michigan State, committed to the Wolverines this afternoon.
Excited to announce that next year I will be attending the University of Michigan pic.twitter.com/YFMeZPvWql
— Isaiah (@_isaiah_35) August 7, 2016
Livers is the third commit in the 2017 class, joining point guard Eli Brooks and shooting guard Jordan Poole. Listed at around 6'8", 205, he projects as a 3/4 in John Beilein's system.
|3* SF||3* PF, #114 Ovr||
4*, 84, #10 PF,
3*, 89, #31 PF,
4*, #24 PF,
Livers is towards the tail end of four-star territory on the 247 Composite, and is in fact considered a four-star only by ESPN, which ranks him considerably higher than the other three sites. He did touch four-star status on Rivals at one point and is only three spots away as he currently stands there.
ESPN's evaluation was updated a couple weeks ago. It sure makes Livers sound like a Beilein four:
Livers is a undersized stretch power forward with very good perimeter shooting skill especially from 17-20 feet off the catch or rhythm dribble. He is versatile and can be a difficult match up on the perimeter for less mobile power forwards.
In addition to adding strength Livers to become more of a physical presence he will also need to put together a low post scoring package to go along with his perimeter scoring ability.
Livers skill and shot making on the perimeter make him a major college forward. He must continue to add to his game but he has excellent upside.
Rivals bumped him into four-star territory in March, noting his ability to run out and finish on the break:
Of the new four-stars on our list, Livers is one of the least known outside of his home state. We haven’t seen him as much as some other players, but he’s capable of knocking down a 15-footer, can finish with the best of them in transition and he checks all the boxes of a guy who could have a huge breakout this spring.
TodaysU posted a brief report from this spring's EYBL praising Livers's motor:
Playing on a loaded Mean Streets team, Livers made a great impression in the Nike EYBL Brooklyn showcase. He works extremely hard at both ends of the floor and is active in the post. His stock is most certainly on the rise.
Minnesota was one of the programs making a push for Livers, and their Scout outlet posted an extensive scouting report from July's Vegas Classic:
Livers is a long 6-foot-8 player that has been working hard on his perimeter touch. He’s hit 37 plus percent from the arc in EYBL and against UBC the long forward sunk a trey in the corner and another at the top of the key. Livers is becoming a more confident shooter with his feet and his one-dribble pull-up jumper looks strong as well. Also had a passing lane jump that he pushed the other way moving through traffic and producing a finger roll.
Isaiah looks like a defender that can defend multiple positions. First off, Isaiah has really good length and he uses that length well. Players had trouble getting looks over the top of him and his hands up in the passing lanes led to three deflections. Also, this is a guy that seems to love to make strong box-out hits. Once a shot goes up Livers turns to locate, makes a stiff forearm contact, and then holds his man well after making the initial hit. Also does a very good job getting over in help to use that length.
There's a lot to like here. Livers looks like a better, more natural outside shooter than most of the players Beilein has brought in at the four, and quite possibly a better and more versatile defender too. While his ballhandling isn't really mentioned, he shouldn't need to create off the bounce too often given the talent around him. There's a lot to like here.
Livers had previously planned to take officials to Butler, Cal, and Michigan State before his Michigan commitment. Each of those schools offered, as well as Akron, Boston College, Cornell, Creighton, DePaul, Detroit, Kent State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Oakland, Toledo, VCU, Western Michigan, and Xavier. New assistant coach Saddi Washington, who'd recruited Livers when he was at Detroit, played a significant role in landing this commitment.
Livers played with the Illinois-based AAU squad MeanStreets alongside fellow M targets Brian Bowen and Nojel Eastern this spring, and he posted strong numbers. In 20 games on the Nike circuit, Livers averaged 9.4 points and 5.2 rebounds (1.1 offensive) in 23 minutes per game with 18 assists, 30 turnovers, 17 steals, and 12 blocks; he shot 57% from two, 37% from three, and 54% from the line.
Nike EYBL highlights:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
While Livers could potentially defend both threes and fours (which function the same in Beilein's offense), his combination of length and rebounding should keep him mostly at the four at Michigan. Livers should find his way into the rotation at that spot early on in his career. Even if DJ Wilson emerges as a viable option at the four this season, Livers could see plenty of time as a backup before stepping into the starting lineup as a junior—Beilein will find minutes for a wing with scoring touch who can guard opposing power forwards.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
If Michigan sticks to the current roster, which lists Mark Donnal as a senior even though he has two years of eligibility remaining, then they still have one scholarship open for the 2017 class. They'll most likely look to add another wing, and they currently have offers out to Brian Bowen, Kris Wilkes, Jamal Cain, and Nojel Eastern, with Justin Smith possibly in line to get an offer. Livers's commitment likely takes Kyle Young, who holds an offer and projects as a four in Beilein's system, off the board.