Caris LeVert getting used to leadership spotlight

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Rosemont, Ill. — Last season, Caris LeVert played somewhat in the shadow of Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III.

Now that all three are in the NBA, the path is open for LeVert to take over the leadership and scoring load for Michigan. And on Thursday at the Big Ten media day, LeVert was named preseason all-conference first team.

But it's not really a coming-out party for LeVert, who was on the second team after posting 12.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists last year.

Instead, it's an acknowledgment for LeVert, who played just as well as Stauskas during some stretches.

"His reputation was there," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I believe one of the reasons Nik worked really hard is he didn't want Caris to beat him out. They could see how well Caris was playing, but Nik didn't let that happen."

For LeVert, a 6-foot-7 junior guard, the spotlight still is somewhat new to him after playing behind three eventual pros last year as well as Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. during his freshman season.

LeVert was evaluated for his potential NBA stock after last season, but decided to return, giving the Wolverines a formidable trio with Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin.

But a foot fracture toward the end of last season stunted some of his offseason development, forcing him to miss 11 weeks. He returned in time for the summer exhibition tour to Italy, where Michigan swept through all four games with little difficulty.

In the four games, LeVert averaged 14.3 points and 6.0 rebounds, while Irvin got a lot of the attention, with 20.8 points, including shooting 67 percent on 3-pointers.

LeVert was also more than willing to share the spotlight with freshmen Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins.

"We wanted to get the younger guys' feet wet; Muhammad and Aubrey played great over there," he said.

"I didn't really play a lot of minutes in Italy. I sat out 11 weeks and practiced two times before we went to Italy, so my conditioning wasn't there."

Improved frontcourt

With the departures of Jordan Morgan (graduation) and Jon Horford (transfer), Michigan will need to get big contributions from the young frontcourt, which includes freshmen Kam Chatman, D.J. Wilson, Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal. The only senior, Max Bielfeldt, has been limited by hip surgery.

Beilein already is seeing signs of improvement from Chatman and Wilson in early workouts.

"Those are two taller players and we need frontcourt help," Beilein said. "I'm really excited that they have when given a task, they do it and they're very coachable."

Doyle had a good showing in Italy, with 11.5 points and 8 rebounds, while Donnal started all four games and added 10.3 points and 6.5 rebounds. Chatman averaged 9.5 points and 4.3 rebounds, but Wilson didn't play because of a finger injury.

Beilein believes Wilson could play either center or power forward but will need to develop his versatility and become consistent, in a role similar to what Mitch McGary played.

Albrecht to step up

Spike Albrecht, who played well in a backup role at point guard, could see some increased production if Beilein has his way.

With Michigan's best shooter (Stauskas) gone, they'll need to have more outside threats, and Albrecht was good last year, but didn't take many 3-pointers.

Beilein has given Albrecht the green light to shoot more.

"That's something every player wants to hear, so I'm looking forward to it," Albrecht said.

"He says he wants me to be more aggressive, having lost some of the guys from last year who scored a lot of our points. He challenged me to contribute more offensively."