Isaiah Livers has seen it all since arriving on Michigan’s campus as a member of the 2017 recruiting class. Thursday’s Senior Night victory over the Michigan State Spartans served as another stamp of success for the forward’s decorated career as a Wolverine.
Livers has played in 117 games at Michigan with 67 starts to his name. He started on Michigan’s national title runner-up team in 2018 and was part of a group the next season that went to the Sweet Sixteen. Despite all of that, Thursday was the first time he left the floor as a Big Ten regular-season champion. It was the program’s first conference title since the 2013-14 season.
As he checked out of a home game for the last time, Livers did a pushup at mid-court and kissed the floor. That has always been a plan of his.
“I told myself this morning when I woke up that no matter what results of the game, I was going to kiss the floor,” Livers told the media after the game. “I knew it would be the last time I played at Crisler, I had to. I saw other seniors do it and I told myself, even when I was a freshman, I’m definitely going to kiss the floor. That’s how much love I have for the campus, the coaching staff and the journey here. Seeing my family, coaches and staff talk about me, it’s real. I hear it every day, honestly. It’s different when it’s on the jumbotron and being my senior night, it totally hit home. Had some waterworks. I had Muhammad (Abdur-Rahkman) text me today, he told me to leave it all on the floor and go do something I was never able to do, be an outright champ. I did it for a lot of guys, especially Zavier Simpson, Teske, who didn’t get a chance to run last year. A lot of emotions and a lot of people to consider to get to where I’m at.”
Livers’ time at Michigan has included many highlights, but Thursday’s ranks up there with the best of them.
“That’s a high accomplishment for me, especially,” Livers said. “I got the Big Ten Tournament, I got to a Final Four. I knew I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to get outright, I just wanted to do it. Why not with this team? We’re special. Guys work hard, guys want it. Guys play for one another. The ball can roll for anybody. We all play like brothers, we all love each other. Other than that, I want the natty, too. I got my outright, we’re going to win the Big Ten championship, have a March Madness run, fingers crossed, and go get that natty.”
Juwan Howard is especially grateful for Livers’ contributions to the program, as he was a major part of the transition between coaches. Livers took on a mental and physical transformation that made him arguably Michigan’s most valuable player over the last few seasons.
Livers’ home court farewell was a special moment for Howard.
“To see the emotion, the sweat, the tears and the kiss on that Block M at mid-court, it shows how much he really enjoyed his time at Michigan,” Howard said. “He’s given it all for four years. The two years I’ve been with him, I’ve witnessed it in practice. I witnessed it in him coming to the gym, listening to music knowing that Isaiah’s in the gym working out. Don’t have to ask him to come in. He loves basketball. And I know his goal is to win championships. Now he has a Big Ten championship, which he’s very fortunate. And he also wants to have the big one, and the big one is an NCAA championship. Like his teammates know, this has been a beautiful moment, it’s been emotional to see senior night and to see Isaiah be able to celebrate with his brothers. I will never forget this day right here. It’ll always be remembered as something special.”
There are still bigger prizes on the board with the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments looming. That is not lost on Livers and the team at all, despite what felt like a party on Thursday evening in Ann Arbor.
“Making my decision, when I was going through the process, that was one of the top priorities for me was win (the conference) outright and win a national championship,” he said. “Obviously, one of the other goals of mine, when I got back on campus and got to practice with the team, we set goals. Outright Big Ten champs, win the March Madness, that’s how we set it. We’re one for three right now, we’ve got two more to go. I’m just excited. Can’t describe my feelings right now.”