ROSEMONT, Ill. — A beefed-up Caris LeVert arrived at Thursday’s Big Ten Basketball Media Day without braces, and he got to show off his smile after being named to the Preseason All-Big Ten team by the media.
The junior guard is joined on the team by Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell, Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker, Nebraska forward Terran Petteway and Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky, who was voted the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year.
During a breakout campaign in 2013-14, LeVert averaged 12.9 points and 4.3 rebounds while emerging as a secondary scoring threat behind Nik Stauskas. LeVert shot 43.9 percent from the field and will see more attention this season as he tries to keep Michigan’s young team steady in a deep Big Ten.
“He was in (the spotlight) a bit last year,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “There were several games where we just went to him because people were doing things with Nik or Glenn (Robinson III).
“I love his personality because he doesn’t let things bother him very much, so I don’t think he gets too excited or gets too worried about either situation.”
The Wolverines didn’t make the media’s preseason top three, which included unanimous favorite Wisconsin, followed by Ohio State and Michigan State.
ROLLING OUT THE WELCOME WAGON: Thursday marked the first Big Ten Media Day for Rutgers and Maryland, and the new league members both expressed their excitement to get started.
“I’ve followed a lot of these coaches for a long time, followed the programs, so I know they’re all excellent coaches,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. “Arguably, it’s been the best league in the country the last four or five years. So, with that said, there’s a lot of anticipation going into it, and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Terrapins join the Big Ten from the Atlantic Coast Conference, another basketball powerhouse, and project to be the better of the two new members. Maryland finished 17-15 last season and features former Wolverine forward Evan Smotrycz as a key contributor.
As they proved with an upset win over then-No. 5 Virginia in 2014, the Terrapins are a talented group. They return 10 members of last year’s team, and while they could have a tough time consistently competing with the conference’s elite, they’re capable of turning heads.
Rutgers, on the other hand, could face a much steeper battle in its Big Ten debut.
The Scarlet Knights went 12-21 last year in coach Eddie Jordan’s first season at the helm and are expected to finish near the bottom of the conference. Jordan, though, says it’s all part of a greater development process.
“We know where we’re coming from,” he said. “Even last year, we thought the process was successful — the first stage of it. We were picked last in our conference. We were seventh. People thought we would win eight or nine games. We won 12. So we feel our kids competed with (class), and that was the first part of the process.
“We understand we’re going to a tougher league, and the second part of the process is to get better players, which we think we did, to be competitive and to meet the opponent eye to eye and play with harmony and effort. That’s the second part of the process, and we think we’re doing ok with that.”
FORWARD THINKING: Beilein hinted Thursday at what many have expected for his front-court plans. While he has yet to give any indication as to who will start at center, he gave some insight on what to look for from freshman forward Kameron Chatman.
“He’s got a great chance to start at one of our forward positions,” Beilein said. “He’s a very natural ball handler and really proven to be a very good shooter thus far. I’m very optimistic he can give us quality minutes from day to day.”
One thing Chatman could do for the Wolverines is provide much-needed rebounding help. LeVert led the team in defensive rebounds last season, pulling in 141 boards from the guard position.
And while Chatman is still filling out his frame, Beilein thinks he will be a useful contributor.
“His body is changing daily,” Beilein said. “I don’t think you’ll see his true body until the next couple years. He’s not afraid to go in (for a rebound) and he’s got great hands and instincts for the ball.”
Beilein has not decided in which position — the ‘3’ or the ‘4’ — he will play Chatman, but said he will decide based on a variety of factors, including defensive ability and how he runs the ball screen.