From LeVert to Dukan: Five Surprising Big Ten Players So FarPosted by Max Jakubowski on November 15th, 2013
Every season always brings new opportunities for unknown players to become known. If a player performs well, he can become a staple in a team’s rotation and see quality minutes during conference play; if not, he could be banished to the end of the bench never to be heard from again. It’s still very early in the year, but here are five Big Ten players who have been pleasant surprises through one week of the season:
- Jaylon Tate of Illinois wasn’t even a recruiting target of head coach John Groce last year. But once Illinois lost out to Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame) and Xavier Rathan-Mayes (Florida State), Groce went after Tate, who was a high school teammate of fellow Illini Kendrick Nunn and Duke’s super freshman Jabari Parker. After Ahmad Stark’s waiver to play immediately was denied, Tate became the full time backup point guard to Tracy Abrams and he has flourished. Tate is averaging nearly 20 minutes per game and leads the team in assists thus far. Don’t be surprised to see Groce playing both point guards together down the stretch.
- Wisconsin always seems to find “system guys” who come in year after year and play their roles perfectly. Enter Duje Dukan. Dukan has become the first player off the bench for the Badgers this season and he is an athletic stretch-four type of player. Dukan has gotten off to an incredibly hot start, shooting 75 percent from deep and scoring 15 points in only 21 minutes of action against St. John’s. After Frank Kaminsky, Dukan is Wisconsin’s tallest player who plays regularly. It’s safe to say that Dukan and his big frame will continue to see minutes, especially during conference play with all the rugged post players in the Big Ten.
- No Trey Burke or Tim Hardaway Jr.? No problem. Michigan has found another stud wing player who has been absolutely on fire in the first two games. Caris LeVert is averaging 20.5 points, four rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game to lead the Wolverines’ offensive attack. There were many predictions that this might be LeVert’s year to break out and it sure looks that way so far. LeVert has good size (6’6″) and John Beilein will have an even more explosive lineup if LeVert can continue to produce at this level to go along with his other offensive weapons in Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas.
- Richard Pitino and Minnesota got a huge lift when Joey King was granted immediate eligibility to play this year. The power forward transfer from Drake is a Minnesota native and a stretch four that Pitino loves to incorporate into his offense. King scored 20 points in his first game as a Gopher and also hit two threes. Pitino is opting to bring King of the bench for now, but he could eventually find himself in a starting role. A pick-and-roll offense with King and all-conference point guard Andre Hollins is a scary situation for opposing defenses.
- Nebraska took an early hit when star senior Ray Gallegos was suspended for the first two games of the season. Gallegos is the leading returning scorer for the Cornhuskers and figures to be the go-to-guy for the Huskers this year. With Gallegos’ absence, Texas Tech transfer Terran Petteway has stepped up big time. Petteway has scored in double figures in both games and is a big and physical guard who rebounds and defends well. Tim Miles may have found another key piece for his team in Petteway — combine Petteway and Gallegos with returning swingmen David Rivers and Shavon Shields plus big man Walter Pitchford and Nebraska may have something brewing to move out of the cellar of the Big Ten.