BASKETBALL

Arizona basketball: Korcheck gives UA rare local player

2012-04-10T00:00:00Z 2012-04-10T10:16:28Z Arizona basketball: Korcheck gives UA rare local playerBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 10, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Matt Korcheck didn't spend his early childhood years thinking he would play basketball for the Arizona Wildcats.

For one thing, Korcheck didn't grow up in Tucson. The Cochise College forward, who offered UA an oral commitment on Monday, attended Sabino High School but was actually born in Japan and spent much of his youth bouncing around the South because of his father's Air Force career.

Another issue: He didn't play basketball. At least not until eighth grade, when he moved to Tucson and enrolled at Magee Middle School, figuring he would give the sport a try.

Only then did he begin to catch the fever. For basketball, and the Wildcats.

"I started playing just for fun," Korcheck said. "I never thought I'd ever play college or anything like that. And in high school, I started watching U of A. It has been a dream school for me."

Korcheck will be the first Tucson player on the Wildcats' roster since Darnell Shumpert transferred in 2010 to Cal State San Bernardino and the first Arizona junior college product to be recruited as a scholarship player in more than 30 years.

However, it took a roundabout trip to get Korcheck back to Tucson.

He played for Sabino, signed with UTEP out of high school, and then enrolled at Cochise College when he did not qualify academically and the Miners changed coaches.

But Korcheck began attracting several high-major schools at Cochise - including Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Marquette and Missouri - and was offered a scholarship last month to play at Arizona. He called UA coach Sean Miller on Monday to accept the offer, planning to redshirt next season and play in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

"It's pretty overwhelming," Korcheck said by phone from Cochise College on Monday. "Coming to Cochise was the best thing that happened to me. I believe if I didn't come here, I wouldn't have gotten to play at Arizona."

Korcheck helped himself by not only standing out for the Apaches, averaging 14.7 points and 6.5 rebounds as a sophomore last season, but also impressing UA coaches during his workouts.

UA associate head coach James Whitford first watched him practice last fall, and Miller drove to Douglas to catch a game in person last December.

Korcheck will join the Wildcats along with three highly touted freshman big men next season - Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley - but won't be competing for playing time against them.

"That's why Matt is excited about this," Cochise coach Jerry Carrillo said. "Coach Miller told him his plan would be ... to come in and redshirt and continue to develop and grow as a player.

"With the roster that they foresee coming in, there's an opportunity for a couple of those guys maybe coming in and being one-and-done. Matt's going to come in, and when he comes in he's going to practice hard."

Carrillo said Korcheck has about 218 pounds on his 6-foot-9-inch frame, and has already improved his strength greatly from his Sabino days. But agility is also a big part of Korcheck's game.

"He can really sprint from rim to rim, and I really think he fits in terms of coach Miller's man-to-man philosophy of defending," Carrillo said. "He can go cover ball screens and battle on the glass. As he continues to play against guys his own size, he'll be a better offensive player."

Korcheck is expected to sign a letter of intent during the spring signing period that begins Wednesday, though Carrillo said it could take a while to complete because his parents are in Florida.

While Korcheck will take the Wildcats' final scholarship for next season, at least one more is expected to open because of additional roster turnover this spring.

Arizona's other spring recruiting targets have included Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell and guard Amedeo Della Valle of Findlay Prep near Las Vegas.

Della Valle was scheduled to visit Arizona this weekend but will instead go to Michigan, Findlay coach Michael Peck said Monday. Della Valle will go to Ohio State the weekend of April 20 and possibly visit UA after that.

McConnell visited UA last week and is scheduled to decide between Arizona and Virginia.

His father, Tim, said Monday that he planned to discuss the choice with T.J. on Monday night and would probably make a decision today.

"The visit went really well," Tim McConnell said. "T.J. really enjoyed it. It was a fun visit, a good visit."

By the numbers

As a local and a junior college player, Matt Korcheck will be somewhat of a rarity on Arizona's basketball roster:

2

Recruited scholarship players from Tucson on UA's roster since Sean Elliott left in 1989: Deron Johnson (1989-92) and D.J. Shumpert (2008-10)

12

Tucson players on UA's roster since the Wildcats joined the Pac-10/Pac-12 in 1978-79, counting walk-ons

17

Junior college players on UA's roster since 1978-79, counting walk-ons

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