Big Ten Network analyst Andy Katz sat down with Michigan Wolverines senior forward Isaiah Livers on a Big Ten Network chat posted to Twitter on Monday following the news that he would be returning to Ann Arbor in 2020-21.
Katz began the conversation by asking Livers why he decided to return to Michigan with perhaps the biggest reason being the strange draft process during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It wasn’t a normal draft process,” Livers said. “I was just sitting here in Ann Arbor zooming with people. You are not flying in with these guys and having dinner with them and shaking their hands and most importantly, looking into their eyes. When you look into someone’s eyes you can tell what kind of thought they have about you and it was all over Zoom call so it was kind of like... I don’t know, with technology you kind of find a way to maneuver it, but it was weird.”
Without the benefit of workouts and meetings necessary to get an exact depiction of Livers as a prospect, he was hearing differing things from scouts.
“There was a lot of (saying) late-first-round, early-second,” Livers said. “It was from late-first to undrafted, between those lines. I wanted to hear more from these teams and I got what I needed to hear. It was really interesting, real good, and I felt like I made the right decision.”
“I feel like I had some more to prove,” he continued. “The motto is ‘unfinished business’. I felt like I had a lot more business to take care of here in Ann Arbor; getting my degree, one final ride with Coach Howard and the boys, it just outweighed the other options. It was just the best opportunity long-term for me.
“I didn’t have the season that I wanted to have with injuries and with everything else going on. It was tough, it can weigh on your mind. But I felt like, especially having Coach Howard and the coaching staff, they helped me during this process to try and stay sane.”
Livers was drawn back to Ann Arbor for the above reasons, but also because of the culture that has been put in place by Howard and his staff.
“The No. 1 core value that Coach Howard brought, and the staff, was family. When he came in, he developed this family stuff off of the court,” Livers said. “We spent time with him, our head coach, off the court. We got to a point where in like the second week we were like, ‘Yeah, this dude is already our family.’ He has a lot of our trust, and coming back was a no-brainer. If I had to come back, it didn’t even matter because of Coach Howard and a great staff, and a great team.”
One way that Howard has been hands-on with his student-athletes is by hosting Zoom call open forums speaking about social justice. That is something else that has stuck out to Livers and his teammates.
“Talking with Coach Howard, (racism and social injustice) is the elephant in the room,” Livers said. “You don’t sit and talk about it every day, but now with the George Floyd thing, it is a common conversation that we need to have as a whole country.
“Coach Howard did a great job of letting us speak if we needed to. (He let) us know that (the coaches were) there. We could talk to anyone on the staff. We have our team Zoom calls, and we would put away our 15 minutes and just talk about social justice, what we feel, and how we can educate ourselves or educate someone else. I just feel like that it starts there with the education.
“There is just something about him,” he continued. “He is so energized and a good people person. Not only that, but he was a great player, has a lot of knowledge, and he is a great coach. I’m excited to be with him a second year.”
Fans and media have all speculated at how talented of a player Livers can be. Katz even mentioned that Livers may wind up being one of the five best players in the conference next season depending on NBA decisions being made by Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu and Iowa’s Luka Garza.
But, for the Michigan forward to achieve his goals, he knows that the most important ability is availability.
“Most importantly I just gotta stay healthy, man,” he said. “I just gotta be on that court and stay healthy. I had a freak accident of a groin injury last year. I’m putting a lot of work now. I’m super healthy and that is all behind me now. I’m looking to the future and I’m trying to forget about the groin injury and the little ankle injury that I had. I need to just be a leader.”