Isaiah Livers to test NBA Draft waters with ‘open book’ mindset

Monday, March 30, 2020 - 12:19pm

Junior forward Isaiah Livers declared for the NBA Draft on Monday.

Junior forward Isaiah Livers declared for the NBA Draft on Monday. Buy this photo
Allison Engkvist/Daily

On the heels of a season that saw Isaiah Livers earn an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection, the junior forward announced he will enter his name into the NBA Draft on Monday.

While Livers didn’t announce the decision until Monday, he told reporters on a teleconference that he made up his mind before the season even began. He will not hire an agent at this time, and instead will “seek advice from multiple individuals,” leaving open the option of returning to school, according to a Michigan spokesperson. 

NCAA rules allow him to retain his eligibility if he chooses, provided he terminates the relationship with any agent he may encounter during the process. Additionally, he is permitted to return to the Wolverines if he participates in the NBA combine and goes undrafted.

“Following the cancellation of the season, my family and our coaching staff have had several discussions on my future as a basketball player,” Livers said in a statement. “After much reflection and prayer, I have decided to enter my name into the 2020 NBA Draft and start the full evaluation process. The University of Michigan has done so much for me and helped me get to a position where I might be able to reach my goal of playing professional basketball.”

Livers was tied as the team’s leading scorer this past season, averaging 12.9 points on 45 percent shooting across 31.5 minutes per game. He missed 10 games due to injury, but emerged as the Wolverines’ offensive focal point when healthy in November and February.

At this point, he has yet to make a final decision on whether he will return for his senior season.

“I want to keep both doors open,” Livers said in a teleconference Monday. “I want the door to keep my name in the draft or the door to keep my eligibility. I definitely want the option to keep my eligibility because if things don’t work out, and say I need another year of school, I don’t have a problem with it. It’s successful either way because I could get my education and my diploma and then declare for the draft next year, or if they like what they see right now, I can keep my name in the draft. It’s good to have two options.”

Livers made a point of emphasizing that he is not leaning one way or another, referring to himself as an “open book.” He feels he’d fit in well alongside the Wolverines’ fourth-ranked incoming recruiting class if he remains in college, though it’s fair to wonder how such additions, coupled with the potential return of much-improved freshman wing Franz Wagner, would clash with his own catch-and-shoot prowess.

With an uncertain couple of weeks on deck, Livers plans to lean on Michigan coach Juwan Howard, who played 19 seasons in the NBA.

“Coach Howard, being the guy he is, he’s not trying to kick me out of here or trap me here,” Livers said. “He’s more about, ‘What’s the best opportunity for me?’ That was one of the first phone calls we’ve ever had between me and him, when he first took the job. He was always going to put me in the best opportunity for me to be the best person I can be to get to my dreams that I want to get to. Definitely more of him being the mentor factor, not only my coach.

“… (Howard) knows how the NBA works. He’ll know if I’m prepared or not by the feedback that he’ll get. I’m taking his feedback 100 percent.”

With the NBA season currently suspended, however, questions about the draft process itself remain unanswered. Without the chance to showcase his game in the NCAA Tournament, Livers would benefit from a chance to boost his stock at the combine or individual team workouts leading up to June, but it’s unclear whether that will be possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

So far, he’s contacted former teammates Jordan Poole, Charles Matthews and Ignas Brazdeikis to discuss the process. Despite the uncertainty, his decision to test the waters will at minimum allow him to get feedback from coaches and scouts at the next level.

For now, whether or not he decides to pull the trigger on making the jump to that level remains to be seen.