Back off on LeVert's return, UM’s Beilein tells media

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Michigan coach John Beilein said that senior guard Caris LeVert "is not ready" to return to action yet.

For some time, but especially lately, the speculation on Caris LeVert’s return has been ramped up.

Michigan coach John Beilein is sick of it.

“I want to be clear about something with Caris — nothing is clear,” Beilein said Friday of LeVert, who has missed 11 games with a lower left leg injury. “When I hear he is cleared to play, he’s cleared to play when he feels 100 percent and I’m on board 100 percent. Let’s not go out there and try to just throw stuff out there.

“He has a total of three practice hours now, total. And if he says he’s ready and I agree, he’s gonna get out there. But frankly, he’s not ready.”

Beilein and the Michigan staff and players have been mostly mum on LeVert’s progress, although Beilein has talked in recent weeks about how LeVert is doing more in practice today than yesterday.

But, Beilein also has been careful never to suggest a timetable for the senior guard’s return.

“I want to be optimistic; I want to do all these things,” Beilein said. “But we are making sure this young man makes the right decision for our team. If he plays in that game the other day (at Minnesota) and he’s not ready, maybe we don’t win it.

“I need everybody to just back off, watch what happens and when he’s out there, he’s out there. Stop projecting.”

Walton does what’s asked

Derrick Walton Jr. listened, and responded.

Beilein has been preaching Walton start shooting more and passing less — and against Minnesota, Walton did that, taking 15 shots, making nine, and finishing with 26 points. He set season highs in all those categories.

“When you’re showing everybody that you’re a pass-first point guard, they don’t guard you and then nothing will work,” Beilein said ahead of Saturday’s home game against Purdue. “That has been emphasized over and over and over again.

“You gotta do it or tell us you’re not going to run the team. We’ll get somebody else. Let us know and we can head in a different direction.”

Walton, not a loud talker, made his point.

“He certainly showed us what he can do,” Beilein said. “Every time I’ve gotten after him to be either more aggressive, better defense, any issues I felt he needs to grow in, he responds.”

Slam dunks

Duncan Robinson had a bounce-back game Wednesday, shooting 4-for-7 on 3-pointers and grabbing a season-high nine rebounds.

“He’s maturing as a player,” Beilein said.

... Mark Donnal is Michigan’s No. 1 big man, but Ricky Doyle is starting to earn back his coach’s trust.

“Ricky’s got this renewed energy, where I like the way he’s moving,” Beilein said.

... Beilein, his staff and the players will wear ChadTough T-shirts Saturday to honor the late Chad Carr.

... It’s alumni weekend, and Michigan will be paying tribute to some of its great teams, including the 2013 national runner-up.

Purdue at Michigan

Tip-off: 2 p.m. Saturday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: ESPN2/WWJ

Records: No. 18 Purdue 20-5 (8-4 Big Ten), Michigan 18-7 (8-4)

Outlook: Purdue won the first meeting, 87-70, on Jan. 7. ... Michigan is trying to avoid a third consecutive home loss. ... Purdue is led by A.J. Hammons (14.7 points, 8.2 rebounds), Isaac Haas (10 points) and Caleb Swanigan (9.8 points, 8.8 rebounds).