Big Ten Media Day: Isaiah Livers Transitions Into 'Prominent' Role
ROSEMONT, ILL. — Junior forward Isaiah Livers talked to the media today in Chicago for Big Ten Media Day. Livers shared what the next step in his game is. He also discusses his thoughts on the Wolverines being picked fifth in the conference and what he and his teammates think of the new coaching staff so far. Livers also provides insight on how several potential key pieces to the team are looking in practice so far.
Livers is making the move from the forward spot he played in his first two seasons to a perimeter wing player. This offseason, he worked on his ball handling to ensure a smooth transition into his new role.
“[My ball handling has] to be prominent. I’ve always had the ball handling but a prominent ball handler is different. It’s where [senior point guard Zavier Simpson] can’t get the ball and someone else has to handle the ball and initiate the offense. Coach [Juwan] Howard has done a great job preparing me for that,” Livers said.
U-M is replacing 39.8 points per game that Charles Matthews, Ignas Brazdeikis, and Jordan Poole provided last year. Livers acknowledges that he will need to help in that respect.
“Last year, I wasn’t asked to score,” Livers said. “I was asked to be a role player and be the sixth man. Coach [John Beilein] used to call [me] a swiss army knife. Now I’m being asked to do a lot more things which is scoring, handling the ball, being that two-way player that Coach Howard wants me to be.”
Livers credited Simpson for helping him develop his skillset.
“It’s been a huge transition,” Livers said. “I got to thank [Simpson]. He’s pushed me to be a better person, better ball handler, and better basketball player … Last year he didn’t really trust anybody [else] with the ball because he hates turnovers just as much as Coach Beilein hates turnovers … I think he’s done a great job. I work out with him, do a lot of ball handling, coming off screens, making the right read, making the right play.”
Michigan was picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten by multiple media outlets. While teammate Zavier Simpson didn’t seem very interested in the preseason picks, Livers insisted the team knew what the outside voices were saying, and they are using it as fuel.
“We all know where they [have] us projected. We do not like it at all and we’re not supposed to like it. We always come out thinking we should be number one no matter what. But, it’s just how things go,” Livers said.
It’s not just Livers that will be in a different role than last year. U-M will have to rely on other former role players and some freshmen if it wants to be a successful team. Livers spoke highly of several teammates that he believes will step up their game. He puts junior guard Eli Brooks among that group.
“Nobody really knows about Eli Brooks and it’s sad,” Livers said. “Everybody knew that his freshman year he was this guy who overcame Zavier Simpson and took his spot [to start the year] which made [Simpson] work to become the player that he is now today. People don’t know behind the scenes how good Eli Brooks is and I’m really interested for him to finally show his true colors.”
While Livers slides out to the perimeter, he says sophomore forward Brandon Johns will likely take his place as the “swiss army knife” that Livers had been previously.
Livers also points out that sophomore guard David DeJulius is another guy who will have to take the pressure off of Simpson and others in the backcourt.
At the forward and center positions, two guys who may be primed to raise their game —according to Livers — are senior forward Austin Davis and sophomore forward Colin Castleton. Davis averaged 1.0 points per game last season while Castleton averaged 1.1 points per game.
“Austin Davis has had a lot of moments to shine, but has never had that moment in the game. I think he’ll have plenty of opportunity to do it this year. Colin Casleton. It’s hard not to name the whole team,” Livers said
Finally, Livers expresses how impressed he is with freshman guard Franz Wagner. He also points out how similar Wagner is to his older brother Moe Wagner.
“Franz has that laughing mentality but he’s more laid back than Moe was,” Livers said. “He’s not as expressive and emotional as Moe was on the court … It’s kind of weird, you hear his voice and you’re like, ‘oh is that Moe?’ Oh no that’s just Franz. But, on the court, he’s sharply focused and I can see why he played overseas with pros and did as well as he did. I watched some film on him before he got here and he’s definitely who he is on film.”
· Livers said it was “emotional and motivational” seeing his former teammates Jordan Poole and Ignas Brazdeikis getting drafted. He said the NBA is his dream, but that he “wants to focus on college basketball first, of course.”
· Livers also talked about former teammate Charles Matthews, who entered the NBA Draft, but suffered an ACL injury in the pre-draft workout process.
“Don’t count Charles out,” Livers said. “Charles is a warrior. He will come back and he will get himself in the league.”
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