Caris LeVert is Ready to Work in Brooklyn
By Tom Dowd
One day before the 2016 NBA Draft, over 1,869 words in a first-person letter that appeared in The Players’ Tribune, Caris LeVert made his case to NBA general managers why they didn’t have to worry about his ability to come back from the foot injuries that had cut short his final two seasons at the University of Michigan.
Maybe the most defining were the three he used at the very end to sign off before his name.
“Ready to work,” the letter concluded, “Caris LeVert.”
Ready to work carried LeVert to an Ohio state high school championship.
Ready to work elevated him from a recruiting afterthought to part of a stacked class at Michigan.
Ready to work drove a rail-thin freshman guard right through Wolverine coach John Beilein’s redshirt plans and into a rotation role on a team headed for the Final Four, playing in the national championship game.
Ready to work brought Caris LeVert to Brooklyn, NY on June 23, 2016, where he heard NBA commissioner Adam Silver announce him as the 20th overall pick in the first round of the NBA Draft from the stage at Barclays Center.
LeVert was selected by the Indiana Pacers, who earlier in the day had agreed to send the pick to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for forward Thaddeus Young. So while LeVert wore a Pacers hat in the interview room that night, he knew he was already home.
“I know it’s a great city,” said LeVert that evening. “I played here a couple times in college. We played in this arena. I’m a Midwest guy, so I’m not that far away from here, but like I said, it’s a great city and I’m glad to be here. I’m ready to work my butt off.”
A 6-foot-7, 191-pound combo guard – no longer that rail-thin freshman, but maybe not that far off – LeVert played in 103 games over four years at Michigan, making 40 percent (134 of 334) of his 3-point attempts. In the 15 games he played as a senior before undergoing surgery on his foot in March, LeVert averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists while making 45 percent of his 3s.
After leading Pickerington Central HS to a state championship in 2012, LeVert arrived in Ann Arbor with a recruiting class that included three other future NBA players – Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas. With two more future NBA guards already on the roster – Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. -- LeVert earned steady playing time off the bench as a freshman for the national runners-up.
He broke out as a sophomore with big early games against Duke (20 points) and Wisconsin (24 points) on the way to All-Big Ten second team honors. LeVert was third in scoring for the conference regular season champs with 12.9 points per game.
LeVert was named to the preseason All-Big Ten first team before his junior and senior years, but saw both seasons cut short by injuries. After undergoing surgery on March 22, he won’t be participating in the NBA Summer League, but he’s looking forward to getting back on the court before too long.
“I’m just trying to do whatever it takes,” said LeVert. “Next year as a rookie, I know rookies have a tougher role on the team, but I’m ready to fulfill whatever role the team needs me to do. And then for the long haul just get better, be one of the guys for the team.”