The Caris LeVert who returned to Pickerington High School Central on June 10 to run his free youth basketball camp was a far cry from the one who led the Tigers to the Division I state championship in 2012.

A slim, sharp-shooting 6-foot-4 guard in high school, LeVert went on to play at the University of Michigan and now is a 6-7, 200-pound 23-year-old guard and small forward who is preparing for his third season with the NBA's Brooklyn Nets.

"I might have weighed 150 (in high school). I was little," LeVert said with a laugh. "My dad was a late bloomer. He grew through college so I knew I had a growth spurt coming, but I didn't know when it would be. It just happened. I would see my mom every couple of months and she would say, 'You're getting taller.' Yourself, you look in the mirror every day, so you don't see it."

Approximately 200 boys and girls entering grades 2-8 attended the second Caris LeVert Basketball Academy, which LeVert hopes will become an annual event at Central. The first, which was held Sept. 17, 2017, at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was limited to 150 youths and reached capacity within an hour.

LeVert averaged 18.7 points and was named second-team all-state as a senior, when Central went 26-2 and won the program's only state title. That was the beginning of a run that has seen the Tigers go 144-44 since the start of the 2011-12 season with six district championships and three regional titles.

Despite being hampered by foot problems at Michigan, LeVert still averaged 10.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 103 career games before being drafted 20th overall by the Indiana Pacers in 2016.

His rights were traded to Brooklyn three weeks later.

"You can predict it, but it's never an automatic thing," said Central coach Eric Krueger, who was an assistant coach on the state championship team. "We considered him a special kid, a special player, and the rest is history. He got much bigger and even taller at Michigan. That really helped him out. He put a lot of time and effort in and worked on his game.

"He does everything well. He's a long kid and he can really handle the ball. He shoots really well. He's active defensively with his length and he can rebound from both sides of the court. He always could shoot and score."

LeVert appeared in 57 games as a rookie with the Nets, starting 26 and averaging 8.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists.

His statistics improved across the board last season, when he started 10 games, played in 71 and averaged 12.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists. The Nets finished 28-54, an eight-win improvement from 2016-17.

"I just got a lot more comfortable, honestly," LeVert said.

"That was the main thing, and (so was) getting stronger and more polished in all areas - shooting, passing, dribbling. I feel like I made big strides in those areas, and then from year two to three, I want to keep that up. I feel like that third year in the NBA is where guys make a name for themselves, separate themselves. That's what I am looking forward to."

LeVert has devoted portions of both of his first two NBA offseasons to teaching. He participated in teammate Jeremy Lin's camp in Taiwan last summer and helped run Basketball Without Borders Asia's camp in New Delhi, India, from May 30-June 2.

"For one thing, I love to travel," LeVert said. "Anytime I get to travel, especially for the game of basketball, is a beautiful thing. I'd never been to India before. It's a place where you don't think you'll ever go to. I enjoyed the experience and I am very grateful and blessed to be able to do that.

"When I was here in high school, obviously there aren't a lot of NBA players in this area. I didn't know any when I was growing up, so I always said that if I made it, I wanted to give back and try to be reachable for the kids here and be a role model, let them know that they actually can make it."

To include as many players as possible, LeVert decided to make his camps free.

"That's a big thing for Caris," said Chad Nelson, a teammate of LeVert's at Central who went on to play at Ohio Dominican and was an instructor at both the Ann Arbor and Pickerington camps. "I think it was neat for the kids to see somebody in person that they'd seen on TV. It gives you a sense of hope seeing them in person and getting to talk to them."

The camp features stations for ballhandling and defensive drills as well as individual and team competitions, including 5-on-5 games.

"I'm sure the kids could feel the energy coming from Caris, his passion for the game," said Darryl LeVert, Caris' younger brother who also played for Central and graduated in 2013. "His game has matured so much. His confidence is huge. I know he feels more confident in himself and you can tell he has benefited from that. His shooting has gotten a lot better and his IQ has grown a lot.

"It makes me extremely proud to know where he's come from and to see where he's going."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave