Nets first-round draft pick Caris LeVert has read the reports. He knows what people are saying — that he can’t play, he’s too injured, he won’t recover in time for the season. LeVert ignored all of it.
The only thing he was listening for at the National Basketball Association Draft at the Barclays Center on June 23 was the sound of his name being called — when the Nets selected him 20th overall.
“I’m a long-term thinker, a long-term type of guy, always have been,” LeVert said. “I’m just excited. I know it’s a lot of work to be put in right now, but I’m just excited to get to this point.”
There was, however, cause for doubt when it came to LeVert’s professional prospects. LeVert’s your-year career at the University of Michigan was marred by injuries, and the 6-foot-6 guard even underwent surgery for a Jones fracture in his foot in March. He’s still rehabbing.
“I probably won’t be doing Summer League, but my X-rays and CT scans look good,” LeVert said. “It’s just a matter of not rushing back right now.”
The 20th pick was originally intended for the Indiana Pacers, but Brooklyn traded up, sending forward Thaddeus Young and a future second-round selection for the opportunity to get LeVert. The move boosted LeVert’s confidence, particularly after spending the last few weeks desperately trying to avoid the naysayers.
“You know, I went for a visit about a month ago. I knew the staff really liked me, but I didn’t know if they had any first-round picks,” he said. “But I’m blessed to be part of this organization. Blessed to be in a great city, as well. Happy to be here.”
LeVert also took matters into his own hands the day before the draft, writing an article for The Player’s Tribune detailing the challenges he’s faced throughout his life, such as his father’s death when LeVert was 15 years old.
As far as LeVert is concerned, a few injuries aren’t anything. He’s already faced the biggest challenge, and he wanted everyone to understand how hard he’s fought for this chance.
“It was great, because I feel like everybody else was telling my story and speaking for me,” LeVert said. “So I feel like that was a great opportunity for me to speak for myself, and I think it got some great reviews.”
LeVert doesn’t expect anything to be handed to him. He knows that he’ll have to work — as he put it — his “butt off” to have an impact in Brooklyn, but he’s more than willing to do that.
Before injuries sidetracked his senior season with the Wolverines, LeVert averaged 16.5 points in 15 games. He’s a versatile combo guard who, if he can stay on the court, can find a role on a young Nets team that needs to find its collective identity.
There will be talk. There will be speculation and discussion of what LeVert can do at the next level. He doesn’t plan on listening to any of it. Instead, he’s going to write his own story — again.
“I’m just trying to do whatever it takes,” LeVert said. “Next year as a rookie, I know rookies have a tougher role on the team, but I’m ready to fulfill whatever role the team needs me to do. And then for the long haul just get better, be one of the guys for the team.”