Michigan coaches targeting 2012 guard Caris LeVert

pickerington[1]In March, Pickerington Central (Ohio) senior Caris LeVert was committed to Ohio University and was surely rooting for the Bobcats to take down Michigan in the round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament. Just over a month later, there’s a chance LeVert could be a Wolverine.

LeVert, a 6-foot-5 guard whose nickname is “Baby Durant” in reference to Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant, de-committed from Ohio last week following former coach John Groce’s move to Illinois, and he is now on the radar of several Big Ten teams, including Michigan. I caught up with LeVert’s high school coach at Pickerington Central, Coach Jerry Francis, earlier today.

“We just wanted to kind of put ourselves in a different academic environment,” Francis said of LeVert’s reason for de-committing. “We are appreciative of the previous (Ohio) staff’s recruiting efforts, and I want to wish Coach (Jim) Christian and his new staff a tremendous amount of success as they get started on their new journey.”

Francis said that since being issued his release last week, LeVert has been in contact with “a number of Big Ten Schools and some Atlantic 10 schools.” Specifically within the Big Ten, he’s been talking to Michigan, Purdue, Illinois and Iowa. Ideally, LeVert would like to make a decision within the next month, according to Francis.

It should be no surprise that some big name schools are now interested in LeVert. In Pickerington’s run in the playoffs, which culminated in a state title, LeVert poured in 22 points per game.

“Caris took the team and put them on his back,” Francis said. “He’s an outstanding scorer on the catch and bounce, on the move, in transition — I mean, he can really put the ball in the basket. He’s long, limber, and just extremely skilled at basketball.”

Since it is still early on in the recruiting process following LeVert’s de-commitment, he has yet to take or schedule any visits. But if given the opportunity, he would surely be interested in visiting Ann Arbor.

“They haven’t spoken as far as a visit, but Caris is definitely willing to accept an opportunity to visit the University of Michigan,” Francis said. “We’re still in the formative stage of recruiting with phone calls, looking at academics and information.”

Francis, who played at Ohio State in the mid ‘80’s, has been impressed with Michigan’s recruiting efforts thus far.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Bacari (Alexander) and Coach Beilein,” Francis said. “They’ve had a great approach to the recruiting process, and we’re just thankful that Caris is one of the guys they’re targeting.”

That’s high praise coming from a guy like Francis. He coached at several Division-I schools, including Ohio State, Oregon State, Bowling Green, University of Houston and Ball State before returning to high school basketball two years ago. He also grew up with someone Michigan fans have become familiar with, Trey Burke’s father, Benji.

Ever since Trey began going to the gym on a regular basis, Francis has seen him grow.

“I’ve known Trey since he was maybe in the 8th or 9th grade and have just watched him develop and grow,” Francis said. “I’m just real pleased, real honored to watch him take off this year as a freshman. Coach Beilein’s staff has just done an outstanding job of teaching the game and developing the talent and doing it the right way. We all knew Trey was an exceptional talent, but for him to have the year that he had, it’s just a tribute to the coaching staff.”

Francis continually praised Burke and his family and mentioned that because of what Burke has done at Michigan, he has “put that school on the map here in central Ohio” and that Caris is “well aware of the Big Blue.”

Now, with Levert’s recruiting process wide open, Francis sees Michigan as a legitimate possibility for LeVert to land — and that’s coming from an Ohio State grad.

“Caris is a great young man, a family-oriented guy,” Francis said. “He surrounds himself with good people, he’s very positive, and definitely would be a fabric of the Big Blue community. I care about him deeply and love him so much, so if it does happen (that he goes to Michigan), when they play Ohio State, I’ll be sure to wear my Big Blue for that game.”

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