May 28, 2013, 7:41 PM EDT
Tim Hardaway Jr. along with National Player of the Year Trey Burke are leaving the national champion finalist for the NBA. Though Hardaway is already making predictions for next season in Ann Arbor. In a podcast with ESPN’s Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg, the former Wolverine shooting guard believes that one of Michigan’s freshmen from this past season will be the team’s X-factor.
It’s not Mitch McGary after his emergence in the NCAA tournament, nor is it two of Michigan’s returning starters — Glenn Robinson III or Nik Stauskas. It also isn’t the national title game’s first half hero Spike Albrecht.
It’s Caris LeVert.
“The guy people are sleeping on is Caris LeVert,” Hardaway told Katz and Greenberg.
“He’s going to be an athletic, defensive guy who can grab rebounds, push it on the break and hit that wide-open three, Hardaway added. “He’s going to be the X-factor for the Wolverines next year.”
Hardaway mentioned that LeVert is now standing at around 6-foot-7 and could reach 6-foot-8 when it’s all said and done. LeVert entered Ann Arbor standing at 6-foot-5, weighing 165 pounds. He has add 20 pounds to go along with the two inches.
Hardaway might be making too much of a bold prediction here. LeVert was expected to redshirt this season, but after six games had finally worked his way onto the floor in a win over Bradley. He’s proven to be a gym rat, given his commitment to the weight room and his late-night shooting sessions.
LeVert also had some big-time contributions off the bench in important games this season for John Beilein. He played 30 minutes, scoring eight points and recorded two steals in a one-point win over Michigan State.
Then in the Final Four win against Syracuse, LeVert had eight points in 21 minutes of action. He buried two 3-points in the first half while Burke and Stauskas combined for 1-for-8 from behind the arc in the national semifinal.
LeVert averaged 2.3 points and 1.1 rebounds per game in his first year. LeVert joins his fellow four freshmen next season along with , Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford. Beilein adds a three-person incoming freshman class of point guard Derrick Walton as well as forwards Zak Irvin and Mark Donnal.
“When I left, I was like ‘hey, it’s your time now, young fella,’ ” Hardaway told LeVert.
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