Almost without fail, Caris LeVert of the Pickerington High School Central boys basketball team starts sentences with “yes sir” and keeps answers to questions succinct and humble.
Even when recalling his promotion from sixth man to starter before the 2010-11 season, LeVert talked less about what he did well than how he tried to help his team.
“I remember I came off the bench (in a scrimmage against Cincinnati Aiken) and I played pretty well, then after that I was a starter,” LeVert said. “I just worked hard trying to prove myself.”
Within 18 months, he had received a scholarship to Ohio University and second-team all-state honors, and had led the Tigers to their first state tournament. For his achievements, the 6-foot-4 senior guard has been named captain of ThisWeek’s Super 12 team.
“What he does on the basketball court, enough said,” coach Jerry Francis said of LeVert, who averaged 22 points and led the Tigers to their first Division I state title. “From the intangibles and leadership and how he’s been able to grow and as far as his voice being heard because he’s our No. 1 guy, he’s come such a long way.”
The glue of a team that started 14-0 and finished the regular season ranked fourth in the state, LeVert helped Central go 26-2 and win its first Division I district title since 2002. In a regional semifinal against Olentangy Liberty, he scored nine consecutive points and 16 of his team’s 18 points during one second-half stretch to help the Tigers win 60-58.
In a 60-51 regional final win over Canton McKinley, LeVert didn’t score until two minutes into the third quarter but still finished with 14 points.
He had 13 points in a 60-45 state semifinal victory over Fairfield and a game-high 20 in a 45-40 win over Toledo Whitmer in the state final March 24 at Ohio State.
“Against McKinley when he wasn’t scoring all those points, you could see how his poise in big games had improved,” Francis said. “He’s not forcing anything. He’s grown within the responsibilities and against different matchups that different teams throw at him.”
LeVert’s regional semifinal performance came against a team coached by a family friend who had helped mentor him since elementary school. Liberty coach Greg Nossaman was friends with LeVert’s father, Darryl, who died in 2010.
“I’ve been with him since third grade and he’s gotten a lot better,” Nossaman said. “He’s earned everything he gets.”
Not that LeVert will talk a lot about his work ethic.
“I just have a lot of confidence in myself because I know I’ve put in the work,” he said. “That’s about it on that.”
•OTHER FIRST-TEAMERS — Roy Alexander (Walnut Ridge, Sr., forward), Nick Archer (Olentangy Liberty, Sr., post player), Jake Butt (Pickerington North, Jr., post player), Wendell Davis (Reynoldsburg, Jr., forward), Aaron Jackson (Gahanna, Jr., guard), Khalid King (Brookhaven, Sr., guard), Jordan Potts (Northland, Sr., guard), Jalen Robinson (Northland, Sr., post player), Isiah Rogers (Westerville South, Sr. guard), Devon Scott (Northland, Sr., forward) and Michael Wells (Delaware, Jr., guard)
•HONORABLE MENTION — Andy Bosley (Olentangy Orange, Sr., guard), Randal Clarkson (Brookhaven, Jr., guard), Jordan Cowgill (Thomas Worthington, Sr., post player), John Draper (Eastmoor Academy, Jr., guard), Christian Keller (Newark, Sr., guard), Elias Osborne (Centennial, Jr., guard), Zach Ratcliff (Columbus Academy, Sr., forward), Brad Saxton (Grove City, Sr., forward), Eric Siefert (Hartley, Sr., forward), Carter Smith (Upper Arlington, Sr., guard), Jett Speelman (Newark Catholic, Jr., forward), Taivion Thomas (Westerville North, Sr., forward), Fuquan Tucker (Africentric, Sr., forward), Stephen Walczak (Olentangy, Sr., post player) and Brooks Weygandt (Worthington Christian, Sr., forward)
•PAST CAPTAINS — Northland’s Trey Burke (2011), Northland’s Jared Sullinger (2009-10), Canal Winchester’s B.J. Mullens (2008), Eastmoor’s Ron Steward (2007), Reynoldsburg’s Javonte Clanton (2006), Brookhaven’s Jamelle Cornley (2004-05), Brook-haven’s Andrew Lavender (2003), Dublin Coffman’s Chris Quinn (2002), Thomas Worthington’s J.J. Sullinger (2001), Worthington Christian’s Sam Smith (2000), Columbus West’s Isaac Jefferson (1999), Brookhaven’s Antwain Lavender (1998), Westland’s Doug Davis (1996-97) and Westerville North’s Shaun Stonerook (1995).