Pickerington Central's LeVert growing into starting role
Darryl LeVert of the Pickerington High School Central boys basketball team doesn't seem to get along well with preconceived notions.
He is busy doing his best to put a new spin on his family's legacy in the Tigers' program.
The younger brother of Caris LeVert, a 6-foot-5 guard who averaged 18.4 points, three rebounds and three assists last season to lead Central to the Division I state championship, Darryl is a 6-8 senior center still growing accustomed to a starting role and the responsibilities of senior leadership.
Only recently has LeVert become a consistent offensive threat. He has scored in double digits in three of the Tigers' 12 games, with the most recent coming Jan. 8 when he had 12 points in a 60-57 win over Groveport. The more predictable statistic in that game was his six rebounds, the area in which LeVert has been most productive as the Tigers are 9-3 overall and 6-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division.
Forward Jae'Sean Tate and guard Connor Kern are the Tigers' top two scorers, averaging 18.3 and 12.9 points, respectively.
"I have a big name to uphold with (Caris) being at (the University of) Michigan now," LeVert said. "My role is really big. Of course, we have Jae'Sean and Connor as star players. I didn't play that much last year, so people really don't know my tendencies as much. I'm like the unknown x-factor, but I have a big role on this team."
Even as the only starter among four seniors, LeVert said he feels no extra pressure to be a leader.
"He's had to step up and take a lot of responsibility on himself to know some things that other freshmen, sophomores and juniors didn't get to know," guard Kyran Boyd said. "He's really improved over the years."
LeVert's point total against Groveport matched his season-high, set Dec. 28 in a 60-48 loss to Richmond (Ky.) Madison Central in the Chick-fil-A Basketball Classic in South Charleston, W.Va. He had 10 points in a 53-52 loss to Reynoldsburg on Dec. 14.
"I would like for him to have a little more pressure on him so he can be more detailed, have more of a sense of urgency," coach Jerry Francis said. "But he's such a great kid, the locker room funny guy, that there are times he has to focus that energy as far as going out there and being a starter and competing. He's getting there."
Part of the maturation will involve strength conditioning. Francis, a former Ohio State player who served as a head or assistant coach for nine men's college teams between 1992 and 2008, said a stronger base might be the key to LeVert getting opportunities at the next level.
"He has some good moves. He just gets bumped off his course a little too much," Francis said. "He'll get stronger as he gets older. He's progressed a lot during my time, but his size and now that LeVert name ... he's carrying the torch and now that level of expectation is kind of been raised. We expect more because we see a LeVert on the Big Ten Network doing great things, then you want that for Darryl. But big guys take a little more time."
Panthers looking to turn corner in OCC
North only can hope that its 46-44 win over Gahanna on Jan. 8 is a sign of things to come in the second half of OCC-Ohio play.
Trailing 44-42 with 11 seconds to play, guard Dajon Moore made two free throws to tie the game. Gahanna missed a would-be winning, eight-foot shot with less than a second left and forward Desmond Palmer was fouled as he grabbed the rebound during a scrum. Palmer made both of his foul shots, and the Lions couldn't get off a final shot.
"We've been outrebounded a lot and I've been emphasizing we need to get better on the boards," coach Pete Liptrap said earlier this season. "The team that rebounds well usually wins."
The Panthers, who entered the week 6-6 overall and 2-5 in the OCC-Ohio, begin the second half of their league schedule Friday, Jan. 18, at Newark.
They then play six of their next seven games at home, starting with a non-league game against Hartley on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
North lost to Newark 55-44 on Dec. 14. Forward Jake Butt had 12 points and guard Devon Price scored 11 to lead the Panthers, who led 24-10 in the first half.
Butt has since graduated to enroll early at Michigan, where he will play football.