UM’s Charlton, Harris still harbor hoop dreams

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Toward the end of last season, Michigan’s basketball team had a decimated roster, after injuries to two of the its best players.

Guards Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. missed most of the second half of the year and without a dominant post player, coach John Beilein was struggling to find pieces to try to have a strong finish to the season.

In the end, Beilein turned to a cadre of freshmen and they took their lumps, resulting in a 16-16 record and ending a streak of four straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

But there’s nothing to say that Beilein couldn’t have used some help from a couple of football players who could have moonlighted on the court.

At 6-foot-6, 280 pounds, defensive end Taco Charlton could have been an option in the post and Drake Harris, a 6-4 receiver, was a heralded guard in high school.

Charlton, who is getting a boost in his playing time this season, might have been a top choice as a big-body fill-in. He played with LeVert, a preseason All-Big Ten selection last season, in high school and is leaving the door open for a possible crossover to the hardwood.

“We joked around about, (but) nothing too serious,” Charlton said Tuesday. “I love the game of basketball; it’s something I’ve played since I was a little kid, my first love.

“We’ll have some discussions about it, maybe a little bit.”

Charlton, a junior, already has a relationship with Beilein and assistant coach Bacari Alexander.

“Coach Beilein, that’s my guy — he and Coach BA. Ever since they recruited Caris, I’ve been really close with them,” Charlton said Tuesday.

Me and coach BA and coach Beilein are really close. We always have friendly talks and ask how each other is doing and talk about Caris always.”

Beilein told a story of going on a recruiting visit to see LeVert at Pickerington Central High School in Ohio and seeing Charlton do a 360 dunk — in flip-flops.

“I used to like to show out a little bit. Me and a couple of our guys, Caris, (Ohio State’s) JaeSean Tate and (Michigan State’s) Javon Bess had a great group of guys. We used to show out when coach came around,” Charlton said.

Harris was more sought after in high school but missed his senior season and freshman year at Michigan because of hamstring injuries, said he still has an itch to play basketball, but is focusing on football, as he’s healthy and playing for the first time since his junior year at Grand Rapids Christian.

Now, all of Harris’ basketball activities are at the recreation building on campus, during the spring. He said he hasn’t had any communication with Beilein about potentially playing for the Wolverines, but the opportunity still could present itself.

Charlton, though, has had a hand in shaping the UM roster, helping LeVert during a tough period last season, when LeVert was trying to decide between staying at Michigan or leaving early for the NBA.

“We talked about it, just us being so close. With me, it’s what’s best for him and his family. I’m here for him and I’m going to support him through whatever,” Charlton said. “I do whatever is best for him. I’m happy he’s having great success. Growing up, we always wanted that dream. Used to be NBA dreams when we were little but now it’s NFL and NBA.”