April 1, 2014

LeVert not blocked from satisfaction

Caris LeVert very nearly blocked the last-seconds shot that sent Michigan packing from the NCAA Tournament. He'll remember that one for a long time, but it's not going to play inside his head as the memory of this season.

LeVert hurt as much as anyone in the moments after Michigan's 75-72 defeat at the hands of Kentucky. He noted afterwards it will always feel like one that got away. The big picture is great, but …

"We try to look at it that way," he said. "Right now, we're just really emotional. We feel like we had that game. We should have won that game. But hats off to Kentucky. They played a great game."

Beyond that, U-M coach John Beilein insisted that the Wolverines not beat themselves up on the exit, at least to the point that it nullifies the journey.

"Coach B. was just reflecting on a great season," LeVert said. "We're really happy for J-Mo [fifth-year senior Jordan Morgan]. We won the Big Ten outright by three games his senior year. He was really happy about that."

LeVert will look back happily on the summer of commitment he and classmate Nik Stauskas put in prior to the season. Not only did their eight-hour basketball days pay off in terms of the team, they worked wonders for the individuals.

Stauskas merely became the Big Ten Player of the Year and someone high on plenty of NBA Draft lists. LeVert went from spot duty as a freshman to fulltime starter who finished third on the team in scoring (12.9 average), second in Big Ten play (13.6), and someone only fractionally behind Stauskas (44.1 to 44.7) in three-point shooting.

Those were days of dedication, and not always easy, he admitted.

"Definitely, there were moments," LeVert said. "It was a tough schedule we were going through, every day. It was a challenge to wake up, go to class, do all those things. We'd push each other, knowing it was going to make us better in the end."

It made them vastly better, and more went into it than just the on-court work, LeVert admitted.

"It was a little bit of opportunity, and I just got better," he said. "I watched a lot of film in the offseason with Coach Val [LaVall Jordan]. Just looking the film and seeing how I could attack things, I was just smarter going out on the court this year, and it really helped me.

"Coach Val has taught me to take the game seriously, and make it as simple as possible. He's taught me a lot about the game, just in one year, that I didn't know my whole lifetime. I really value our relationship, and he's a great mentor to me."

And the fit, LeVert admitted, couldn't be better.

"Coming here and seeing that the coaches really wanted me to come here, seeing who I was going to be playing with, knowing we had a chance to win a national championship my freshman year, all of those things combined helped me know I could be the best player I could be, coming here to Michigan," he said.

"They just recruit the right guys. They recruit guys that want to get better, each and every day, guys who really push themselves on and off the court, do the right things."

Even though the last shot proved just out of LeVert's reach, Beilein's crew should be coming back thinking very little stands beyond theirs.

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