It's a Sunday afternoon at Crisler Center and no one is sure where Caris LeVert is going. The sophomore is running as his teammates give chase. One second he's there, the next he's gone, swallowed by the darkness of the tunnel leading to the Michigan locker room. Back in the arena, everyone is left wondering what just happened. LeVert ended the first half by catching, turning and shooting what would be a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in an eventual win over Michigan State. It's not the shot that draws the confusion. It's LeVert's response. Upon firing the 3, LeVert landed, wheeled around and took off running up the floor. The ball, meanwhile, still hung in mid-flight at the keystone of its arc. As all eyes watched the ball, LeVert already was halfway to half court gazing into the stands. Michigan coach John Beilein would later say that the guard was looking up at his mother. Did Kim LeVert know her son was staring at her? "No, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me," she says the following the day. "The things he can do never surprise me." Kim LeVert beams and boasts about her sons the way mothers are supposed to. The 51-year-old has spent the last 22 years as a teacher. She tends to first graders in the Columbus City Schools system in Ohio. Once mother hen in a family of four, she’s now a mother to two boys entering manhood -- Caris LeVert and his brother, Darryl. She can talk and talk and talk about those boys. The claim about never being surprised, though, is quickly disproved. Kim LeVert is told something that brings pause. “Really? Wooowwww,” she says, stopping and processing. “Well, I’m glad to hear that. I’m glad to hear he’s talking about it and actually articulating how it’s shaped him. That’s good to know because he normally never talks about his dad.” ___ Besides his looks and his height, Caris LeVert inherited a trait that defined Darryl LeVert. Darryl was funny, but reserved. Smart, but quiet. He combined a competitiveness that turned games of H-O-R-S-E into wars of words, while still managing to stay warm and personal. Caris carries the same disposition. Being shy and being reticent are two different things. Caris is the latter. His 19-year-old voice is more of a low hum, like the oscillating fan in the corner of the room. When thrust in front of the media, quotes come in short, nonspecific sentences. Caris LeVert isn’t much interested in revealing Caris LeVert. Then came Feb. 17. LeVert sits in the Towsley Room inside the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross Academic Center. The day before, he scored 25 points in a loss to Wisconsin, one of a number of performances that have turned him from a skinny, overlooked, under-evaluated guard from Pickerington, Ohio, into arguably the most important player on a Michigan basketball team standing alone atop the Big Ten Conference standings. The chair doesn’t fit LeVert well. His 6-foot-6 frame debunks da Vinci's Vitruvian Man -- all arms and legs. He’s up to 185 pounds now. It’s taken a while. His old high school coach, Jerry Francis of Pickerington Central High School, is quick to point out: “That boy was barely a buck-forty in his junior year.” Despite the chair, LeVert looks comfortable. He loosens up. For a gifted guard ranked second in scoring on the No. 16 team in America, little is known about what’s inside. LeVert was a three-star recruit out of high school. He came to Michigan with little fanfare, only landing in Ann Arbor as a late signee after John Groce left Ohio University, where LeVert was originally committed, to take the Illinois job. LeVert’s ongoing sophomore campaign -- from scoring 24 points at Duke early in the season to averaging a team-best 16.9 points over U-M’s last nine games -- has come out of nowhere. So after volleying back answers to a half-hour of questions, LeVert looks up, straight ahead, when a question catches his attention. “Caris, have there been any defining moments in your life?” He looks around an empty room, considering the question and the door it leads to. “Well, on Easter of sophomore year of high school, me and my brother found my dad dead on our living room floor.” The door swung open.
The untold story of Michigan's quiet Caris LeVert
Michigan Live | Feb 28