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After 'crazy couple of months,' Isaiah Livers decides to return to Michigan

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

The long wait is over and it’s good news for Michigan basketball.

Isaiah Livers will be sticking around for one more year.

The 6-foot-7 forward announced on Friday he withdrew his name from NBA Draft consideration and will return to Ann Arbor for his senior season.

"What a crazy couple of months,” Livers said in a statement. “However, I have learned a great deal from this process, and I'm extremely excited to return to Ann Arbor. My family and I are so appreciative of Coach (Juwan) Howard and all the staff for letting us really explore my dream of playing in the NBA.”

Isaiah Livers

Livers declared for the draft in late March following his junior season, which he said was his plan all along. He called testing the waters a “beautiful opportunity” and a “win-win” situation because he had two successful options — return and get his diploma or start his professional career.

However, Livers was blunt and said it was going to take a guaranteed contract from an NBA team for him to forgo his final year of eligibility.

"I would always love to come back for another year at Michigan," Livers said in March. "If they (NBA teams) like what they see and teams are literally saying they're going to draft me, then I'm pretty sure that I'm going to stay in the draft. It's basically whatever the evaluations and feedback, however that comes, is basically how I'll make my decision."

Since the end of the season, his name hasn’t appeared in any two-round mocks draft by major outlets and he has ranked well outside the 60-pick draft range on several top 100 big boards, including No. 87 by The Athletic, No. 92 by CBS Sports and No. 95 by ESPN.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Livers didn’t have an opportunity to improve his draft stock and open some eyes during the pre-draft process. NBA teams were barred from conducting in-person workouts and interactions were limited to virtual interviews on Zoom.

The virus also led to the NCAA pushing back its deadline for underclassmen to withdraw and return to school from June 3 to Aug. 3. Livers initially said he was going to take as much time as he was given before making up his mind, but that apparently changed this week.

"It was a great afternoon when Isaiah stopped into my office and told us he would be returning," Howard said in a statement. "The opportunity for Isaiah, and his family, to take a deep dive and learn as much as they could about professional basketball is a blessing. Now, he has even more information to know what he needs to do to reach that next level and fulfill his dreams.”

With Livers back, the Wolverines return their top outside shooter as well as one of their most versatile and experienced pieces. He led the Wolverines in scoring (12.9 points) and 3-point shooting (40.2%) last season while averaging career highs in rebounds (four) and assists (1.1) during an injury-riddled campaign.

Livers started 21 games and missed 10 contests — nine during conference play — due to lower-body injuries to his groin, hip and right ankle. The Wolverines went 19-12 and finished .500 in the Big Ten, but they were a completely different team when he was healthy, going 6-6 in games when he was sidelined or left early due to injury.

His return means Michigan will bring back three starters — including guard Eli Brooks and wing Franz Wagner — to go along with the Big Ten's top incoming recruiting class as well as transfers Mike Smith and Chaundee Brown.

That will give Wolverines a starting lineup that should put them in contention for top-25 status all season long and will feature one of the top wing tandems in the conference with Livers and Wagner, who announced he was returning for his sophomore year in late April.

More: Michigan-UCF hoops agree to home-and-home series starting this year

After Friday's news, the attention shifts to Brown, who is waiting to find out whether he will be granted a waiver for immediate eligibility, and the fate of the college basketball season. While the Wolverines await those verdicts, they at least don’t have to wait any longer for one of their biggest offseason decisions with Livers back on board.

“I want to thank all the NBA teams who took the time to talk to me. The information I gathered is going to be invaluable moving forward,” Livers said. “But now, we have unfinished business in Ann Arbor. I cannot wait to do everything I can and help lead this team to great things.”

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins