Isaiah Livers: Mr. Basketball and Mr. Nice
Kalamazoo Central Player Heads to UM to Study, Play Basketball
When you’re named “Mr. Basketball,” there’s a good chance something like that could go to your head.
Isaiah Livers just smiles a little.
Livers, the 2017 Hal Schram Mr. Basketball award winner, selected by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, says it wouldn’t be right to get too cocky.
“I’m just blessed to have such an award on my shoulder,” Livers said, his 6-foot, 8-inch frame taking up space in a little room in the athletic office at Kalamazoo Central. “There are a lot of cocky basketball players. Some have the right to be cocky. I’m not there yet. I haven’t played a lick of college basketball. How could I be cocky? I’ll just keep it that way. I don’t ever want that. I want to stay humble, to keep working.”
Livers graduated from Kalamazoo Central in June. He’s committed to play basketball at the University of Michigan for coach John Beilein.
Livers has enjoyed basketball ever since he was 7 and pushed his way into the game his brother and dad, Morris Livers, were playing in the driveway.
“I thought that looks like fun. I was shooting on the side. What do you know, I was hitting more shots than my bigger brother,” he said. “I was begging my dad to play basketball the next day. He got annoyed, but it was his fault. He loves it and he played in high school.”
But as much as Livers loved the game, he loved another game more: baseball. That was his main sport throughout the beginning of his high school career. That was his mother’s fault. Angela Livers played baseball in high school.
“It was my first love,” Livers said. “I still love baseball.”
He played both sports, but baseball took most of his time. He devoted his summers to travel baseball — until the summer before his senior year. At that time, he talked to his coaches who acknowledged he had talent in both — but they left it to him to make the call.
“It’s too difficult to do both in the summer and take it 100 percent serious. You have to practice. I said, ‘I guess basketball it is.’” He began working out every day to get his weight down and to build muscle. He worked on improving his shooting range and finessing his passing and ball handling.
On his way to helping K-Central make it to the Class A quarterfinals this spring, Livers averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds, and 4.3 assists while shooting 54 percent from the field. He also shot 45 percent from the 3-point area and 81 percent from the free-throw line. He can play multiple positions and defend as well.
Playing both sports strengthened his overall skills, each helping him develop different kinds of focus.
“Basketball is a lot more moving when you’re playing,” he said. Baseball is a more focused, relaxing sport. You’re going from that to a high-tempo sort of game. It’s a lot different.
Livers is preparing for life in Ann Arbor now. That was never his plan. His dad was a Spartan and he thought that would be in his future, but he said he just found a better fit at the University of Michigan.
“I like Coach Beilein’s philosophy and offense,” he said. “I can shoot the ball on the perimeter, but he likes man-to-man defense. I can pretty well defend on the outside and inside.
“And me and Coach Beilein get along. Actually, it was baseball. He’s a big baseball fan. That’s how we started talking and laughing. I remember him telling me, ‘I can see it Isaiah. We’re going to go somewhere with this.”
As he prepared to leave Kalamazoo Central, he said he had positive memories of the unique blend of people at the school, as well as some great staff such as principal Valerie Boggan and athletic director Dylan Patterson, and teachers and coaches who have supported him through the years.
“I can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done,” he said. But, to his family, he gives the highest praise. In addition to his parents, he has several siblings, Branden Delk, Kennedy Livers, Brian Humprey and Aaron Smith. He also thanks his girlfriend Hope Hale. But, most of all, he thanks his parents. They always encouraged him in sports, but they let him choose his own path, whether it was choosing the sport to focus on or deciding on the school that he believes will take him to the next level in basketball.
In that realm, he puts the responsibility not on his family or his coaches or his teammates, but on himself.
“I talk to myself. It just keeps you motivated. There’s a difference between doubting yourself and being motivated,” he said. The talk sounds like this, “‘You’re nothing yet. You haven’t made it yet. You haven’t gotten there yet. If you keep working, you will get there. You have more room to improve. There’s always more room to improve.’”
Mr. BasketballRead MLive story about Isaiah Livers' Mr. Basketball award