Isaiah Livers of Kalamazoo Central gives his acceptance speech after being named Mr. Basketball on Monday afternoon in Detroit. Clarence Tabb, Jr., The Detroit News
Detroit – Isaiah Livers of Kalamazoo Central was named Mr. Basketball Monday afternoon, topping Michigan State-bound Xavier Tillman of Grand Rapids Christian in the closest voting of the award that was first handed out in 1981.
Livers, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward headed for Michigan, won the award by a 2,811-2,739 margin in voting by BCAM members across the state, with Tillman actually receiving more first-place votes (363-333).
Livers and Tillman will battle Tuesday night in a Class A state quarterfinal at Lansing Eastern for the right to play in the Final Four Friday afternoon at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
“I can’t wait,” said Livers of facing Tillman. “I was texting him earlier. He said congrats, and I said thank you. It means a lot, much respect, and I’ll see you Tuesday, rematch. Ever since that Romulus loss we’ve turned it around.”
Kalamazoo Central lost its final two games of the regular season, 73-63 to Romulus Feb. 25, then a 53-51 overtime setback against Grand Rapids Christian March 2.
Jason Whitens of Powers North Central (1,911) finished third, followed by Greg Elliott of Detroit East English (1,672), Amauri Hardy of North Farmington (988) and Jamal Cain of Detroit Cornerstone (787).
Livers, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward, averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two blocks to help Kalamazoo Central (21-3) earn its first regional championship since 2011, defeating 6-8 Brandon Johns and previously unbeaten East Lansing 75-60 in the regional championship game.
Livers is the first Mr. Basketball award winner to go to Michigan since Manny Harris 10 years ago. He said he dropped more than 20 pounds since his sophomore year, which made him more mobile.
“I was probably like 6-6 or 6-7 and I was actually a big guy, like 235,” said Livers of playing during his sophomore year. “I slimmed down and got to 220 now, grew an inch or two taller, increased my vertical, got in the weight room. I’m flexible and quicker on my feet, lighter now, and that allows me to start breaks, help me box out.”
Kalamazoo Central coach Ramsey Nichols has high praise for Livers.
“He has the total package, he impacts the game on both ends of the floor,” said Nichols. “He’s a very good defensive player, blocks shots well without fouling, keeps the ball in play. He can handle the ball like a point guard, shoots the ball very well and has increased his range over the summer. He's a very underrated passer, has very good court vision, just does everything.”
Livers started alongside Devon Daniels (Utah) his sophomore year before Daniels departed to play with Josh Jackson, now at Kansas, at Prolific Prep Academy in California.
Livers didn’t follow Jackson, Daniels and former Saginaw Arthur Hill standout Brian Bowen to a prep school in another state, but rather stayed home to try and earn Kalamazoo Central its first state championship since consecutive state titles in 2010 and ’11.
“No disrespect to any of the guys who did leave, but I had a great belief in Coach Nichols in how he coached and what he believes in,” said Livers of staying at Kalamazoo Central. “I didn’t want to leave. It felt like home to me. I felt if I left I would have regretted it.”
Michigan Mr. Basketball voting
Only BCAM members are permitted to vote. Points are awarded on a 5-3-1 basis. There were 1,212 total votes cast.
1. Isaiah Livers, Kalamazoo Central, 2,811 points (333, 313, 207)
2. Xavier Tillman, Grand Rapids Christian, 2,739 (363, 249, 177)