June 23, 2016
ANN ARBOR — John Beilein will likely see the seventh player of his Michigan tenure selected into the NBA draft tonight. Caris LeVert is in Brooklyn and on the verge of seeing his professional dreams become a reality.
As everyone knows, though, the 6-foot-7 shooting guard’s path has been a winding one — and one open to second-guessing. LeVert could have entered the draft last season, but opted to return for his senior season at Michigan. In a cruel twist, he paid a steep price by injuring his left foot for a third time in as many years.
Now LeVert is one of the biggest mysteries in tonight’s draft (8 p.m., TV: ESPN). Some think he could still be selected late in the first round. Most think he’ll be picked in the early-to-mid second round. Other think he’ll fall to the latter parts of the second round.
Beilein? He doesn’t know when LeVert will be taken, but after the run of adversity that his former player has zig-zagged through, he thinks a happy ending is coming.
“That’s the way it’s going to be sometimes,” Beilein said Thursday of LeVert’s challenges. “I choose to think that this is going to be one of the best stories ever told when he has a great NBA career and it all works out and he has his degree.”
Roughly a dozen or so NBA teams contacted Beilein about LeVert through the evaluation process. There have been plenty of questions.
On March 22, LeVert underwent surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. The procedure — to address a fracture to the fifth metatarsal in his left foot — was performed by Dr. Martin O’Malley, a specialist who has performed bone graft surgery on NBA star Kevin Durant, among other pro athletes.
LeVert’s surgery prevented him from participating in the NBA Draft Combine and individual team workouts. He was able to interview with teams and share his medical information, but no teams have seen LeVert play since December.
While there have been questions about LeVert’s injury history, Beilein said he’s opted not to speak about it.
“I refer that 100 percent over to Dr. O’Malley,” Beilein said. “I’m not a doctor. I can tell you about the kid’s heart and his toughness and his desire.”
In those catagories, Beilein does nothing but rave about LeVert.
Beyond himself, Beilein said NBA teams have spoken to everyone from assistant coach Jeff Meyer to former assistants Bacari Alexander and LaVall Jordan to current strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson.
The ultimate selling points for LeVert relate to his length and versatility.
“What everyone likes, and it’s a byproduct of the league right now, is the idea of having several playmakers out on the floor at one time — and Caris is a playmaker,” Beilein said. “There’s an appeal to a multi-position player like he is. He can rebound like a three, pass like a one and has a two-man’s body.”
The fact remains, however, that LeVert’s draft stock is tenuous — so much so that he penned an open letter addressed to “NBA GMs” on The Players’ Tribune in an attempt to quell any doubts that he is damaged goods.
Given the circumstances, Beilein was asked Thursday if LeVert’s decision to return for his senior year is one that he’s left reconsidering.
“Every situation is so unique, but I think this was absolutely the thing for him to do — to try everything he could to play,” Beilein said. “It’s just incredible, to have two fractures — for that to happen to anybody is mind-boggling.”
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