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Player Profile: Isaiah Livers ready to transition from role player to starter

Livers stood out late last season for Michigan, and is ready to take on an even bigger role under Juwan Howard.

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Semifinals Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Isaiah Livers is under the spotlight for today’s Michigan Basketball Player Profile. The junior forward from Kalamazoo Central High School is the latest Michigan Wolverine we will take a look at in our preview coverage ahead of the 2019-20 season, Juwan Howard’s first at the helm of the program.

The Story So Far

Livers committed to Michigan and John Beilein in August 2016. He was a four-star prospect and the 33rd-ranked power forward in the Class of 2017 per 247Sports composite rankings. He made immediate contributions as a freshman during Michigan’s run to the National Championship game. Livers saw action in 40 games, making 22 starts as a freshman. While only averaging 3.4 points per game and 2.3 rebounds per game, Livers showed flashes his freshman year.

During his sophomore campaign, Livers took on a Swiss Army Knife role off the bench for John Beilein, featuring at guard, forward, and center in 35 games. Livers made his only three starts of the year when Charles Matthews suffered an injury in late February, but the 2017 Michigan Mr. Basketball made the most of his time, recording his a double-double in his first start against Nebraska. Livers shined brightest during the postseason, dropping a career-high 21 points in Michigan’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal win over Minnesota, and making highlight plays against Florida in Michigan’s second-round NCAA Tournament win.

Livers led the Wolverines in three-point shooting percentage during 2018-19 at 42.6 percent. He would go on to average 7.9 points per game in his mixed roles.

How He Fits in 2019-20

Livers role this year goes from sixth man to vital cog. With the injuries suffered by Brandon Johns Jr. and Franz Wagner, Livers is going to be looked upon to help shoulder the load for Michigan at forward with Zavier Simpson leading the guards and Jon Teske holding down the paint at center.

“The last two years, I had to play my role and do what I had to do,” Livers told the Detroit News on Michigan Basketball Media Day. In preparation for his new role, Livers dropped about ten pounds over the summer, playing leaner at 228 pounds.

With the coaching staff’s trust and two years of experience under his belt, this should be the year that Livers finally gets his chance to shine under Juwan Howard. Whether logging minutes at the three or the four, Livers may need to carry much of Michigan’s scoring punch early in the season with uncertainties at shooting guard after the departure of Jordan Poole and as other players come along until Wagner returns from his injury sometime in November or early December.

Howard has a lot of belief in the Kalamazoo native, thinking he can be one of his most important players at Michigan, and possibly a future pro in the NBA, just like his former roomate, Jordan Poole.

“I feel like he has a chance to play at the next level,” Howard said. “He can shoot the basketball. He’s a pure, high-character kid. He asks questions, he wants to get better. I’m gonna utilize him. He’s gonna have a chance to score. But I want him to also be a two-way player.”

Livers can score, he can play defense, what remains yet to be determined is how Livers can serve as a creator at forward. Behind Zavier Simpson, Michigan could use another player that can throw some crafty passes, run plays and set up teammates for success both down low and on the perimeter.

If Michigan is going to find success in 2019-20, you can be certain that Livers is going play a major part in it. If he can put it together at both ends of the floor, and handle the responsibility of not only being a starter, but serving as a team leader alongside Simpson and Teske, the potential is limitless for the heights Livers can reach this season.