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The Suburbanite
  • Jackson Township resident follows nephew, heart to Final Four

  • The NCAA Men’s Division I Championship Tournament has been driving many local residents to madness, especially when their selected teams lose.

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  • The NCAA Men’s Division I Championship Tournament has been driving many local residents to madness, especially when their selected teams lose.
    As for Cynthia Williams’ team? Her team is still playing.
    This basketball season has held special meaning for Williams, whose nephew, Caris LeVert, is a freshman on the University of Michigan Wolverines’ squad. Williams and her nephew were raised in areas around Columbus where most people are big Ohio State Buckeye fans. Today, Williams is a public relations coordinator for Kent State University at Stark and her alma mater is Ohio University. But, for now, her heart belongs to Michigan.
    “My loyalties go to my nephew, Caris, first and foremost,” Williams said. “My family and friends have followed Ohio State for years and when I root for Michigan, some of them do call me a ‘traitor.’ I tell them I’m really rooting for Caris. And, when Kent State or Ohio University play, I root for them as long as they are not playing against my nephew.”
    Williams has a lot of cheering left to do this season as Michigan is heading to Atlanta  to face off against Syracuse for the chance to play for a national title. The Wolverines earned their Final Four spot March 30 after a decisive 79-59 win over the Florida Gators.
    In this, his first NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament experience, Caris and his family have plenty to celebrate.
    FINDING A HOME
    But the celebrations are bittersweet.
    Williams’ brother and Caris’ father, Darryl LeVert, passed away three years ago. Caris has a younger brother, Darryl (named after his father).
    “Having lost my brother, the boys have been special to all of my family. We see a lot of my brother in his two sons,” Williams said. “My family has been there to support Caris in his decision to go with Michigan and we’ll be there to support Darryl in his future college selection.”
    Darryl, a 6-7 senior at Pickerington High School, has not decided where he wants to attend college.
    Originally, Caris had been recruited by Ohio University. Shortly after Caris agreed to attend OU, head coach John Groce left to take over as head coach at the University of Illinois. It was then, Williams said, that  Caris decided to reopen his recruitment. Michigan showed an interest, and after spending a day in Ann Arbor, Williams said they knew it was a good fit.
    “Caris feels he is getting a superior education and that he is getting treated really well,” Williams said. “The coach has been a good mentor and has helped Caris with his transition to college as well as his transition on the basketball court.”
    Caris has been keeping up his grades and is getting his weight up. Williams said he has gained 20 pounds and grown 2 inches this year.
    Page 2 of 3 - RUN TO FINAL FOUR
    Michigan made its through the Sweet 16, toppling Kansas in an exciting match-up.
    “For the Sweet 16 game, I’ll be sitting in the cheap seats in my family room and screaming at the top of my lungs and just enjoying watching him play in his NCAA tournament debut,” Williams said ahead of the game.
    It was likely a tough game to watch.
    Michigan trailed most of the game, but came out stronger in the second half. The team came alive forced the game into overtime where they won 87-85. Caris played a few minutes in the first half and played again at the end of the regulation.
    Williams watched the Elite Eight game from those same “cheap seats” only this time around, it was a little less tense. The Wolverines easily dismantled the Florida Gators to earn the trip to the Final Four.
    “It’s a rare, unique, wonderful and exciting thing to see how his hard work both in the classroom and on the court has gotten him where he is today,” Williams said. “He is just a pleasant, polite young man and he deserves all of the good things that are happening to him.”
    Caris, Williams said, is enjoying his freshman year at Michigan. He loves his teammates and all of this has been more than he ever hoped to achieve. His mother, Kim, is supportive and has attended all of his tournament games including the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Texas.
    Williams knows for sure that Caris’ father would have been there, too, cheering proudly for his son.
    “We are very blessed,” Williams said. “My brother would be overjoyed and would be so proud of both of his sons. I know Caris and Darryl both feel the love and pride of their father.”
    WATCH CARIS PLAY
    Michigan’s game against Syracuse is set to tip-off at 9 p.m. Saturday on CBS.
    MEET CARIS LeVERT
    Class: Freshman
    Hometown: Pickerington, Ohio
    High School: Central
    Height/Weight: 6-5/ 170
    Position: Guard
    UM season stats
    • Has played in 31 games for the Wolverines this year and started once.
    • Has scored 68 points so far this season.
    • Has grabbed a total of 29 rebounds, the bulk of those (24) were defensive.
    • Recorded 23 assists, 2 blocks an 5 steals.
    High school standout
    • Named to Associated Press All-Ohio Team his senior year (2012)
    • Named Ohio Capital Conference Ohio Division Player of the Year (2012)
    • During his senior season, LeVert averaged 18.4 points , 3 rebounds and 3 assists per game.
    Fast facts
    Page 3 of 3 - • His nickname is “Baby Durant”
    • He grew three inches between his junior and senior seasons
    • Originally signed with Ohio University, but chose to attend University of Michigan after OU head coach John Groce left to take helm of University of Illinois men’s basketball team.