Hoops Hello: Isaiah Livers

Submitted by Ace on August 7th, 2016 at 6:22 PM

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.

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.

GURU RATINGS

Scout Rivals ESPN 247 247 Comp
3* SF 3* PF, #114 Ovr 4*, 84, #10 PF,
#69 Ovr
3*, 89, #31 PF,
#136 Ovr
4*, #24 PF,
#120 Ovr

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.

SCOUTING

ESPN's evaluation was updated a couple weeks ago. It sure makes Livers sound like a Beilein four:

Strengths:
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.

Weaknesses:
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.

Bottom Line:
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.

OFFERS

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.

STATS

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.

VIDEO

Junior highlights:

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.

Comments

Pepto Bismol

August 8th, 2016 at 10:26 AM ^

You can't count Michigan's own offer.  If a guy's offers are 5 Division II schools and Michigan, you can't say "Look, he has to be legit, he's got a Michigan offer!"

Nonetheless, I was going by his 247 profile which doesn't list those other offers you mention.  I stand corrected.

umchicago

August 8th, 2016 at 10:21 AM ^

ya, they aren't duke, ky or unc, but that's a pretty good list.  he appears to be a likely top 100 player when done.  imagine if he grows another inch or two his senior year.

also, your take on UM's offensive philosophy is poop.

Pepto Bismol

August 8th, 2016 at 10:42 AM ^

I went by 247 on the offers. 

My "takes" are always poop.  But I wasn't criticizing the offensive philosophy - more the execution.  They had nobody to penetrate and break down a good defense, and they generally lost the rebounding battle.  6'8" guys who live on the perimeter don't help either.  Not saying that's what he undoubtedly will always be, but that was his ENTIRE tape, and it's not what I hoped to see. 

Brooks and Poole will hopefully bring one of those aspects, I would just be more excited if Livers were playing at the rim instead of behind the arc. 

 

 

bacon1431

August 8th, 2016 at 11:10 AM ^

You can't see it in the highlights, but several people have stated he has good enough handle to move past guys on the closeout. Some of the people guarding him will be burly PF and I have no doubt he could easily glide past them. He's not going to break people down on the dribble in ISO or PnR, but he can definitely get past a guy like Caleb Swanigan or Nick Ward. Granted, there'd be a mismatch on the other end as well. 

He's got a solid enough frame to add some weight. He's long as well. I think he can play a GR3 role for us. Probably won't finish as well around the rim, but he'll hit threes at a better clip and is a solid rebounder. 

I understand some of the reservations. Other than shooting, he doesn't have an eye popping skill. But I think he's good enough at everything else that he'll be a solid contributor here. I think there's alot to be encouraged by with recruiting as of late. We've gone after more athletic guys than we have in the past and some with "good defender" in their scouting reports. 

Lanknows

August 8th, 2016 at 12:53 PM ^

The Beilein 4 isn't going to be a primary ball-handler, but floor spacing and the ability to create offensive opportunities is how M gets back as good as it gives on the other end.  The number of teams that can make M pay by posting up their PF is tiny (think Blake Griffin and James Randle) while Michigan can get theirs offensively by playing wings who are either strong, tough, or athletic enough to hold up most of the time.

The recruiting eval mentions a need to develop a post game and that's 100% unnecessary for a Beilein 4. Whereas, the ball-handling ability (and general perimeter skillset) is what they will work to develop. 

That's the part I worry about for Livers - is he going to be skilled enough?  Our best 4s:  Robinson, Irvin, Novak have been players with at least low-level guard skills.

I tend to worry whenever Beilein recruits a pure 4 because that's not what he's been successful with.  It'll be interesting to see if more traditional 4s (Wilson and/or Livers) can change the track-record here.  I think that's a bit of what they wanted from Bielfeldt but the center depth never materialized.

 

Lanknows

August 8th, 2016 at 12:58 PM ^

I'm concerned Beilein isn't taking a 5 in this class.  I would prefer he took one in every class, as generally speaking it's taken most Beilein bigs several years to develop. Considering that attrition has been frequent and Beilein's track record of getting freshman and soph bigs to play at a high level is non-existant beyond McGary - it would seem that depth and experience is the answer. He can't keep relying on 1st and 2nd year players. 

That said - perhaps it's a sign they are very confident in both Davis and Teske. Still, if it was me, I'd want the next guy in the development pipeline.  Especially since Beilein HAS shown he can get freshman guards and wings to play at a high level.

bacon1431

August 8th, 2016 at 2:47 PM ^

I don't think there's any way you can justify taking a C in this class. That'd be four centers within three recruiting classes. That's almost a third of our roster for one position on the floor. And these aren't guys that can play another position. Only way I would take a C in this class is if Wagner, Teske or Davis are not planning on being here next season. But we won't find that out until the spring and I think it's likely they all stay. Then you take a C in the 2018 class. 

I think we should only really ever have 3 C on the roster. We only use one and we don't even need a really good one for the offense to function, just a suitable one. I think we should look at taking a different type of C than JB usually does, but I don't think we need one every class unless there's transition. Three in any four year stretch is good with me. 

Lanknows

August 8th, 2016 at 3:35 PM ^

I think you have to look at it more like the OL in football. It takes an extra year or two to develop there not only physically but to learn Beilein's system.  We saw what a disaster it was when Michigan had to rely on non-McGary freshman over the last 2 years.

Michigan plays 3 Cs every year.  A 4th should be developing behind them.  Every other position has cross-over potential with another.  There are some 4/5 tweeners (e.g., Bielfeldt) which is fine but you have to have at least 2 guys who can play at all times, or you are screwed.

The offense was at it's best with McGary (elite talent) or Morford (elite experience).  It hasn't worked well at all with freshman.I agree it doesn't have to be an elite talent, but it is a critical position from an execution perspective (again, like the OL).  The C has to be able to set screens and understand timing to roll to the basket - not to mention being the defensive anchor.  Michigan needs to get bodies to the position and, until it starts landing elite talent, give them time to develop within the system.

bacon1431

August 8th, 2016 at 4:12 PM ^

It may be like OL but you're not going to have 25+ (which would be about the same % as having four C taking up scholarships in the available 13) OL taking up scholarships every single year. That's insanity.

I'm not saying it works well with freshmen. But I didn't agree with taking Davis alongside Teske. We have four C on our current roster, which is too many IMO. Our two best C under JB also played significant time in their freshman or RS freshman season. It's about getting the right guys. Freshmen C play immediately all the across the country (some need development before capable of playing, others do fine in that minor role). Even Ricky Doyle did okay as a frosh, though he didn't develop for one reason or another.

You really only have two play most of the time, with a third when there's foul trouble. A freshman can be that guy getting the scrap minutes. I said we only use one in the sense that we only have one on the floor at one time. We never play two in JB's system. We can play two PG, two wings, two SG etc at a given time, but almost never two C. I wouldn't use four scholarships on Pg unless one or two of them were combo guards.

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Lanknows

August 8th, 2016 at 5:12 PM ^

And that's after Doyle transferred away. There is nothing insane about it.

Beilein's 9-man rotation will use 3 at center and 6 for the four guard and wing positions combined.

You NEED 3 playable centers, for foul trouble if nothing else. We've always played 3. Horford, Bielfeldt, Wagner -- all these guys got meaningful minutes as the 3rd C.  Remember Bielfeldt playing against Kentucky in the Elite 8?

It's not about how many Cs you put on the floor at once, it's about what happens when foul trouble or attrition hit.  The C spot has to have depth precisely because it is unique and requires a unique skillset. It's also the most physically demanding spot. 

The 3 and 4 are all but interchangeable.  2s are just 3s with ball-handling ability.  Stauskas and Manny Harris were the defacto point guards and Stu Douglass was a backup PG at times. 

The center has to be the center and he can't be a noob (even McGary took a while to get up to speed).

Optimal roster:

  • 2 PG
  • 1-2 combo guard(s)
  • 2-3 SG/SF
  • 2-3 SF/PF
  • 4 C

 

Lanknows

August 8th, 2016 at 4:01 PM ^

Donnal does not return and Wilson is a 4?  Both events are expected.

Suddenly for 2018-19 you are back to a true freshman backup C if either Davis or Teske is hurt, doesn't pan out, gets into trouble, etc. 

And then what if unexpected attrition strikes twice (e.g., Horford & McGary)? Never forget. Nobody wants to go through 2014-15 again (even though that was a likable bunch of kids).

bacon1431

August 8th, 2016 at 4:18 PM ^

McGary/Horford situations are very rare. How many times do you have two unexpected departures from the same position? Not often. Just because it can happen doesn't mean we should plan for an extremely unlikely event. And even in that situation, we were gonna have four C on the roster had they both stayed. Doesn't meant Donnal/Doyle would have been better off waiting their turn. In fact, letting them develop probably just means you find out they're not great as juniors and seniors rather than as sophomores. It's about finding the right guys. Not taking up lots of space for one position in the hopes that they get to develop.

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Lanknows

August 8th, 2016 at 5:24 PM ^

The frontcourt attrition for Michigan has been consistently problematic.  Who has stuck around for their full eligibility beyond Morgan in recent years?  We either send kids to the NBA, they transfer, or get hurt.  This has been the norm.

If Morgan or Horford were asked to play starters minutes as freshman they wouldn't have been the guys they became.  Even Donnal made a huge leap from freshman to junior year.  Michigan certainly benefited from being able to limit Wagner's minutes last year. He wasn't ready.  The only guy who was as a freshman was McGary, and again, he had to wait a while too.

bacon1431

August 9th, 2016 at 8:24 AM ^

And I will reiterate that it's about finding the right guys, not taking more guys. I think we just need a solid rotation of our top two guys and the third guy should only have to play if there's foul trouble (which is what has happened when we've had two solid guys). 

If we get better guys, we don't have to wait on them to develop. They'll be better sooner and be able to contribute as that third C right away. Then you can spend your scholarships on the other four positions. 

Lanknows

August 9th, 2016 at 10:05 PM ^

The rotation is 6.5 guys + 2.5 bigs.  Scholarships should be allocated accordingly - 9/4.

I'd love it if we suddenly had a bunch of McGary's flowing in but in reality some positions just take longer to develop.  Beilein can get freshman to play at non-center spots right away but has never done so at center. Even talents like McGary and (hopefully) Wagner took most of the season to start reaching their potential.

HarbaughorBust

August 8th, 2016 at 12:04 PM ^

Another undersized PF who stays on the perimeter offensively.  Great length, poor strength. Very LIttle Dog in his game.  Sure he's knocking down shots in these videos but it will be a whole different ball game when he has to defend Big Ten Power Forwards all game then come down and try and knock down jump shots.  

Would be a great pick up if he had a better supporting cast.  Unfortunately, all signs point to soft as butter rosters going forward.

Really wish JB didn't give up on Young yet.  He's the type of body we need on the block.  Livers is more of the same of what we've seen the past 2 years.  LIke someone said above, he will be a good player on an average team instead of a complimentary player on a good team.  

FolkstyleCoach

August 8th, 2016 at 1:15 PM ^

A lot of these posts sounds doubtful and lack excitement. Let me tell you, this kid already epitomizes everything that Michigan and Beilein stand for. He is extremely well respected by his whole school for the way he conducts himself off the court. He could attend any Ivy League school he wants he is so smart. He is somewhat of a late bloomer so he really hasn't even found out how good he can be yet. I've talked to his coach multiple times, who also coached Wilson Chandler in HS, and he thinks Livers is ahead of him developmentally at the same stage in their careers. He is the most polite kid, great student, very respectful of his peers and elders, works hard, internally driven, great baseball player, great athletes as siblings, he's the whole package. I haven't even mentioned his basketball skills. He's a great passer and understands the game well, very smooth athlete, very smooth. Everyone dogging this offer will fall in love with Livers once he suits up and they get to see his overall game.

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CR

August 8th, 2016 at 5:23 PM ^

I wil be surprised if he is not a very good player for UM.

I think he has all BT and maybe even NBA potential. It may take a year or two in the weight room but I see ability and sound mechanics. Add that to his attitude and intelligence and it seems hihgly likely that we have something here.

Before he committed I was as enthusiastic about him as any kid that UM might get. Plus, seems like a good fit with the other 2017 kids and the 2016 Bigs.

To me, feels like Livers is the right piece.

 

ShadowStorm33

August 8th, 2016 at 2:10 PM ^

He looks like a good pickup, much more so than the short little blurb last night implied, but I'm mystified how someone can shoot 37% from behind the arc but only 54% from the line...

Ty Butterfield

August 8th, 2016 at 5:01 PM ^

Did the switch to Nike/Jumpman help in this situation? I don't know a lot about AAU ball but it sounds like Nike is by far the largest sponsor. I seem to remember some comments posted at one point from an AAU coach who basically said he couldn't steer players to Michigan because at that time Michigan was an Adidas school and his AAU team was sponsored by Nike. Maybe this isn't the case but I am genuinely curious. It seems like the change to Jumpman has to help somewhat.

Alumnus93

August 8th, 2016 at 5:47 PM ^

every time I see donnals name I kinda cringe. but maybe its not his fault, playing out of position, but boy does he seem soft and non clutch. I hope I eat these words.

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