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Arizona Basketball: Cats' focus shifts to center: Tarczewski is new weapon

2012-11-01T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:13:01Z Arizona Basketball: Cats' focus shifts to center: Tarczewski is new weaponPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 01, 2012 12:00 am  • 

With 7:30 to play Wednesday night, Kaleb Tarczewski caught the ball on the left block and tried to dunk with both hands.

The ball squirted out and over the rim, so he caught it, made a layup from the right side and induced a foul by Humboldt State's Aaron Chamberlain.

He finished with a three-point play.

Three minutes later, he made a baby hook bank shot from the right block, in one motion, after smoothly catching a feed.

"Zeuuuuuuus," the Zona Zoo chanted.

McKale Center underwent few changes during the offseason; there was no new scoreboard or retired jersey or locker room construction.

But look for the main development in the Arizona Wildcats' 108-67 exhibition win against Humboldt State on Wednesday, and you'll find the freshman center leading a pack of UA big men that now, improbably, stands four deep.

Tarczewski started and recorded 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting Wednesday, grabbing 10 rebounds (four on offense) in 24 minutes.

"When you go from a 6-7 Jesse Perry to a 7-foot, 255 pounds Kaleb Tarczewski (and others), it's a lot easier," guard Nick Johnson said. "It makes our job easier."

It's not simple - the Wildcats actually spent the last few weeks trying to perfect their feeds into the post, and coach Sean Miller said they "have a long way to go" - but it's a weapon the UA will exploit.

"He had a tremendous game," Johnson said.

The New Hampshire-born center - who was not made available by UA officials Wednesday - bullied a Lumberjacks roster that featured one player taller than 6-8.

But he did so with confidence. Before the Red-Blue Game 10 days earlier, Tarczewski "was nervous," senior guard Mark Lyons said.

He played like it then.

"I told him (Wednesday), we're playing basketball," Johnson said. "Just go out and play - and do you."

Miller joked that "if he was nervous" against Humboldt State, "then we'll take that all the time."

He characterized Tarczewski - rated by ESPN.com as the No. 4 overall prospect in the nation at St. Mark's School in Southborough, Mass., last year - as someone who can be too hard on himself.

"That can be a good thing," Miller said. "Sometimes he wants to do well … we're talking to him about it."

Miller praised his play at the start of the second half, when he made back-to-back jumpers to start the frame.

"He really showed you what he can do," the UA coach said. "If you play him with one player … he's going to get a good shot at the basket."

Johnson said Tarczewski has "one of the best jump-hooks in the game."

The Lumberjacks played both man and zone defenses but didn't double-team Tarczewski in the post often. When teams do, though, the Wildcats' guards figure to benefit with open jumpers.

"We get the ball down there," Johnson said, "and they create shots for us."

After adding about 30 pounds since coming to Tucson in June, Tarczewski is "starting to get used to being heavier, get used to being stronger," Miller said.

He wants to do well, but "also has a mean streak to him."

Tarczewski will only get better, the coach said.

"The most impressive thing about Kaleb," Miller said, "is his attitude and who he is as a person."

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