June 22, 2016
ANN ARBOR — Former Michigan guard Caris LeVert is in the closing stretch of a dream becoming reality. He will wake up on Thursday, wait out a long afternoon, and then settle in for the NBA Draft.
His name will be called. It’s just a matter of when.
On Wednesday, LeVert did his part to quell concerns about an oft-injured left foot that has many questioning his value in the draft.
In an open letter addressed to “NBA GMs” and published on The Players’ Tribune, LeVert cites his own resiliency on and off the court as reasons to believe he’ll bounce back from his latest surgery in March and have a productive NBA career.
“You probably heard that I hurt my foot a few months ago,” LeVert writes. “It’s all anyone talks about when my name comes up at this point. There was a surgery, and, for a while, a walking boot. I was the guy on crutches at the combine.
“And since I had some foot issues earlier in my college career, doubters have come out in droves. Now lots of people are asking whether I can come back and be the player I was before, whether I’m tough enough to pick myself up and be resilient in the face of adversity.”
Through the letter, LeVert tells the story of the unexpected 2010 death of his father and how LeVert climbed from being an under-recruited high school player to an NBA prospect.
The letter, in its entirety, is an effort to assuage those who might question the risks of drafting him.
On March 22, LeVert underwent a third surgery in 22 months on his left foot. The procedure was to repair a Jones fracture to the fifth metatarsal in the foot, an injury similar to one he suffered earlier in his career.
Once a projected lottery pick, LeVert is now being slotted anywhere from the late first round to late second round on Thursday night.
That wide range comes with plenty of implications.
In LeVert’s letter, he assures his audience that the injury will be conquered.
“I’m almost there,” he says.
LeVert adds: “What I can’t wait to show the world when I make my NBA debut is a player who can handle, shoot, go hard to the hoop, and defend. I can play as a one, a two, or even a three. My versatility is my greatest asset, and I bring a unique skill set to the court.”
As of now, the last time LeVert was seen on the floor at 100 percent was in late December. The 6-foot-7 guard played started Michigan’s first 14 games of the 2015-16 season — leading the Wolverines with 17.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists — before injuring his foot on Dec. 30.
LeVert cites that final game — on the road at Illinois — as a prime example of how NBA teams should weigh his value
“It was our first Big Ten game of the year, and I feel it was the best overall game that I’ve played,” he writers. “Twenty-two points, 10 assists, five rebounds. I showed my whole game. I displayed the ability to make shots off the catch, to score off the dribble. I showed that I knew how to get into the lane, and how to get others involved.”
LeVert’s letter appears on The Players’ Tribune, the Derek Jeter-created website that promotes first-hand story by athletes. The site has a partnership with Michigan athletics and has also run a large number of stories from clients of Roc Nation Sports, the Jay-Z-owned sports agency of which LeVert is a client.
While multiple interview requests have been issued to LeVert’s inner camp and through the PR company handling his communications, the former Michigan star has not been made available for an interview.
Thursday night’s draft will begin at 8 p.m. ET at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and be televised on ESPN.
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