Michigan's Isaiah Livers out indefinitely with stress fracture in right foot
Indianapolis — As the Wolverines continue their postseason march, they’ll do so without one of their top players leading the way.
The Michigan basketball program announced on Saturday that senior forward Isaiah Livers will be out indefinitely after an MRI revealed a stress fracture to his right foot.
He’ll wear a protective boot and immediately begin rehabbing, according to the release.
"It was awful, honestly,” Livers said Saturday of the past 24 hours after receiving the injury news. “Just thinking about when I first stepped on campus to now. I kind of feel like I'm in this same situation, ironically, last year the NCAA Tournament was announced that it was canceled and Big Ten (tournament).
“It just sucked. I kind of felt like (former teammates) Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske, how their season got shortened last year around this time. You just hate to see it.”
Livers said he first started to experience discomfort in his right foot when Michigan played at Maryland on Dec. 31. Then it lingered. In last week’s loss to Illinois, fifth-year senior center Austin Davis rolled up on his lower right leg during a busy closing stretch where the Wolverines played five games in 11 days.
Then in the first half of Friday’s Big Ten tournament quarterfinal win against Maryland, Livers said he aggravated the injury during a defensive play in transition that ended with him limping off the court.
“I've had foot issues halfway through the season that I've been battling,” Livers said. “I've never had a stress fracture. I feel like I've been playing on it for like the last four to five (games) maybe. It wasn’t as bad as it was.
“It's not something that just happened one day. Obviously, a stress fracture is an injury that happens over time. It was something that I was battling, and we were rehabbing."
Livers added he never had a stress fracture before and didn’t know the feeling. If he did, he said he would’ve rested and “sat my butt down.”
Coach Juwan Howard said he was unaware of Livers injuring his foot earlier in the season. The first he heard Livers say something about it was on Friday.
"During the game, he talked about it's not feeling well,” Howard said. “How I'm wired, I'm not going to force anyone to go out there and play. I'm always keeping my players' health number one before any game. …To find out that type of news, it hurts. I'm hurting for him."
Losing Livers is a huge blow for the Wolverines and their postseason chances. Entering play on Friday, Livers ranked first on the team in 3-point shooting (44.6%), second in scoring (13.7 points) and third in rebounding (6.1). He also led the team in minutes played (32.3) and made 3-pointers (50).
It’s equally crushing for Livers, who contemplated entering the NBA Draft this past offseason before opting to return. He missed 10 games last season with groin, hip and right ankle injuries. He also sat out two games his sophomore year due to back spasms and was sidelined one contest with a sprained left ankle during his freshman season.
Livers was in a boot and sweats for Saturday's Big Ten tournament semifinal loss to Ohio State. He did what he could from the bench to help lead his teammates, who were deflated when Livers got the diagnosis.
“It was pretty devastating hearing the news, even for me,” freshman center Hunter Dickinson said. “I can't even imagine what Zay is going through. Seeing the work that he's put in ever since he decided that he was going to come back for his senior year.
“To see all that work and for it to end this way for him. …I’m not sure when he’s going to come back so I feel terrible for him right now.”
Michigan will find out on Sunday whether its first NCAA Tournament game will be next Friday or Saturday, with second-round games two days later. The Sweet 16 starts on March 27 and the Elite Eight on March 29. The Wolverines still have their sights set on playing on the first Monday in April.
Whether Livers will be able to suit up again remains to be seen. He said he and trainer Alex Wong haven’t yet talked about a possible return date.
Until then, the Wolverines will turn to senior guard Chaundee Brown, junior forward Brandon Johns Jr. and freshman forward Terrance Williams II for more minutes. Johns replaced Livers in the starting lineup on Saturday.
Even though the thought that he's played his final game in a Michigan uniform has already crept into his mind, Livers is holding out hope his career won't end this way.
"This world is full of possibilities. You never know, I could be back out there," Livers said. "I don't want people to write me off yet. I'm still going to rehab and work my butt off to get back with this team because I know we're going to make a run and I want to be there for it."