Caris LeVert goes from redshirt to starter in one month for No. 2 Michigan
ANN ARBOR -- At first glance, Caris LeVert doesn't look like he's ready to play major Division I basketball.
He's 6-foot-5, but it's mostly all arms. He's 170 pounds, and that might be generous. He just turned 18 four months ago.
He still wears braces, for crying out loud.
But with LeVert, looks are absolutely deceiving. The skinny kid with braces just started for the No. 2 team in America -- and he was far from overwhelmed.
"I was a little nervous, but it was more excitement than anything," said LeVert, who made his first career start Saturday in place of the injured Tim Hardaway Jr. as Michigan topped Central Michigan, 88-73. "I just wanted to go out there and help my team.
"When they called the starting lineups, I was excited. But once things started, I settled in."
He made an impact, too. LeVert scored 7 of his 9 points before halftime, and handed out 4 of his 5 assists during the first 20 minutes of the Wolverines' blowout win.
He didn't look overwhelmed, and was far from passive -- as he took 11 shots in 32 minutes, including four 3-pointers.
"He did really well, but we all expect that of Caris," Michigan point guard Trey Burke said. "We see it every day in practice, he came in and I just told him to go out and play with confidence.
"Play like it's high school. Play with that same confidence and do what you can do to contribute to this team. He came in, hit some jump shots and was big on the defensive end."
It's been quite a month for LeVert, announced as the "pride of Pickerington, Ohio" during Saturday's starting lineup introductions.
When the season started, Michigan coach John Beilein seemed relatively content in redshirting LeVert to preserve his freshman year and help his development. LeVert said he was OK with that, but apparently he wasn't.
His work on the practice floor and consistent ability to give Michigan's starting five fits on the scout team left Beilein with no choice -- he had to play him. LeVert's redshirt was pulled at the beginning of December, and he's been a key member of the rotation ever since.
So much so that when Hardaway went down with an ankle and snapped a streak of 81 starts, Beilein turned to the skinny kid in braces to take his place.
Because he'd earned it.
"Caris showed he was ready today," Beilein said. "He's got some things to his game (that are multi-dimensional). He shoots the 3, but he can also get into the lane and he sees people."
When Hardaway returns from his injury, LeVert's stay in the starting lineup will end.
But his role on this team won't.
In one month, LeVert -- who was almost an accidental addition to Michigan's freshman class last spring -- went from an afterthought to a key contributor on a Big Ten title contender.
And he's loving every minute of it.
"This is just really fun," LeVert said with a smile. "I just want to go out there with energy, and help the team in any way I can.
"I'm just getting more comfortable offensively, getting to my spots more -- I just know what to do."
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