When Isaiah Livers and Jordan Poole arrived on campus in the summer of 2017, the two freshmen knew they would try to carve out playing time on an upperclassman heavy Michigan squad.
Fast forward to just over a year later, and they will be leaned on as leaders for a Michigan team that lost a combined 17 years of experience with the graduations of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson, Jaaron Simmons and the early departure of junior Moe Wagner to the NBA Draft.
Coach John Beilein has been impressed by his two sophomores, both of whom are likely to start when the season tips off November 6. “He (Livers) sees things around him and educates the other guys, that is the biggest thing. He probably has more of the sense of a veteran than a lot of other veterans would have, and actually Jordan Poole has been doing the exact same thing. The two sophomores they’re talking to their teammates like they are veterans.” Beilein continued.
The coaches words rang true for both of his sophomores, as they knew the challenge at hand in providing leadership to what is now an underclassmen-heavy Wolverine roster.
“Coach B was basically telling us someone had to fill in that void of all the leadership that just left.” said Livers, a former Michigan Mr. Basketball (2017). “I feel like just from having conversations with the coaches and telling us how we gotta be leaders, I really feel like I have been here for three years already.”
Jordan Poole feels similar to his roommate and best friend about embracing more responsibilities in the coming season. “Last year was fun, but this year is about business, and being able to come in this year and doing everything that I need to and try to get us back to where we were last year is definitely something I have taken under my wing and I am extremely locked in for it.” said the sophomore guard from Milwaukee
Luckily for both Livers and Poole, they have each other to lean on in addition to coaches and teammates. After becoming fast friends as freshmen, the pair is nearly inseparable. “We’re roommates, we pretty much do everything together except use the bathroom.” chuckled Livers.
The two attended the Michigan vs. Michigan State football game in East Lansing last Saturday. Their on-campus apartment is more than just Poole and Livers, each of them adopted a cat as a personal pet since moving to Ann Arbor.
“I remember when we first got Lizzie (Poole’s cat), and I have a little black cat that we found. They’re like brother and sister.” Livers said. (Disclosure: Attempts to find the name of Livers’ cat on the internet returned no results.)
“In a way that’s like my child, man.” Poole replied when I asked him about Lizzie and being her ‘paw-rent’. “Basketball is extremely long and can get overwhelming and you need an outlet. You need something to go home to and still be a kid… I had two cats at home and just being able to try to recreate a home environment, but it’s definitely a responsibility, being able to make sure she is okay and taking her to the vet, stuff like that.” He continued about his companion, who has been seen riding around in Poole’s backpack on social media. “I think that made me be more responsible and grow up faster, and I love her man, that is my cat and its like my daughter man, I hang out with her, I play with her. I take care of her. She has a lot of personality too.” he finished.
Like father, like cat. Poole’s unique persona took on a life of its own after he hit the game-winning shot against Houston back in March, but to block out distractions, he has removed himself from a lot of social media platforms, including deleting his Twitter. Both he and Livers understand that if the Wolverines are to have another banner-worthy season, much responsibility will fall on the pair’s shoulders.
“When you got your back against the wall you gotta grow up right away, and I feel like that is what we did (this summer.)” Poole told me. “We were able to teach the freshman and have them learn and teach them our ways and how the older guys taught us and when you got the ball in your hands and you’re supposed to be the guys, you definitely grow up extremely fast.”
Growing up fast won’t just be the motto for Livers and Poole, it’s something Michigan’s incoming freshmen will have to do as well if the Wolverines hope to compete in what will be a rough and tumble Big Ten Conference this season.