Arizona may have wrapped up the nation's No. 1 recruiting class in 2012 - and filled a major void inside - when top-rated big man Kaleb Tarczewski committed to the Wildcats on Monday.
Tarczewski (pronounced Tar-ZOO-ski), a 7-foot, 220-pound center from New Hampshire who plays for St. Mark's (Mass.) School, chose the Wildcats over Kansas after a long decision-making process.
He narrowed his choices to two schools in August, then agreed to take final official visits to Kansas, during the weekend of Oct. 15, and to Arizona, for its Red-Blue Game on Oct. 22.
"It was a pretty tough decision," said Tarczewski, the No. 1-ranked '12 center by Rivals. "They were both great schools. Both had a great history, great coaching staffs, great present and great future. It really came down to a gut feeling."
Tarczewski said he sat down with his family last week to discuss his choice, picking Arizona despite having a longer relationship with the Jayhawks staff. The Wildcats, he said, began recruiting him about a year ago.
"They're both great schools," Tarczewski said. "Kansas has been recruiting me longer than Arizona had. But it doesn't matter how long they've been recruiting you. It matters how you feel."
Tarczewski received a stronger pull during his official visit to Tucson this month than he did in June, when he took an unofficial (unpaid) visit to UA. He had also visited Kansas several times unofficially.
"It was summer, so the whole campus wasn't there and it was very hot out there, too," Tarczewski said of his June visit. "But going back last weekend, the weather was great, the campus was great."
Tarczewski, a top 10-rated 2012 player by ESPN and Scout and No. 20 overall by Rivals, is known as a well-rounded big man with improving offensive skills.
"He gives you a solid inside presence," said analyst Jerry Meyer of Rivals, which ranks Tarczewski as the top center.
"I don't know if he's going to have to be a go-to scorer, but he's going to score, get rebounds and block some shots. Talented seven-footers aren't always around."
Scout analyst Evan Daniels said Tarczewski, who goes by the nickname "Zeus," has developed most recently on offense.
"He's improved his rebounding and has a nice jump hook over his left shoulder," Daniels said. "He's really developed his ability to score in the low post, which wasn't one of his strong points."
Tarczewski adds to what is easily the best recruiting class yet for third-year coach Sean Miller, who already pulled in a top-5 class last year with guards Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson, plus forwards Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson.
After the fall signing period for 2012 recruits begins on Nov. 9, the Wildcats are now expected to add letters-of-intent from Tarczewski, forward Brandon Ashley, forward Grant Jerrett and guard Gabe York, all of whom are rated among the nation's top-50 players in 2012.
Even before Tarczewski committed, ESPN.com ranked Arizona's 2012 class the No. 1 group in the nation. That ranking does not figure to change.
"Last year Arizona loaded up its backcourt," ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep posted on Twitter. "This time around, they secured an embarrassment of frontcourt talent. Impressive stuff."
Scout.com ranked Arizona's class No. 2 behind Indiana before Tarczewski committed, but Daniels said Tuesday that Arizona will be No. 1 when its new rankings are released Thursday.
Lightly speaking, at least, Jerrett, Ashley and York helped "recruit" Tarczewski while all of them took official visits during the Red-Blue Game weekend.
"They goofed around about it a bit," Tarczewski said. "But it's kind of up to you what happens. They were cool about it."
The Wildcats have no scholarship spots remaining for 2011-12 and are not expected to seek any other players until possibly the spring, if a spot opens up via transfer or early pro departure.
But with three top-25 frontcourt additions in Tarczewski, Ashley and Jerrett, the Wildcats already have enough to give their shaky 2011-12 frontcourt a boost next season.
"Whatever problems they have now, they're about to end," Daniels said. "These guys coming in, they're not going to take much time to develop."
On StarNet: Read more about the Cats on Bruce Pascoe's blog: azstarnet.com/pascoe
Kaleb Tarczewski file
• Age: 18
• Height: 7-0
• Weight: 220
• Position: Center
• Hometown: Claremont, N.H.
• School: St. Marks (Mass.)
• Rivals rankings: No. 1-ranked center, 5-star recruit