Pac-12 basketball tournament: No. 21 UCLA 66, No. 18 Arizona 64: Bruins school Cats 3rd time

UA center Kaleb Tarczewski finished with 13 rebounds, but the freshman found it tough to score against the Wear twins - Travis, center, and David - finishing with six points. Tarczewski fouled out near the final minute.


Because he's the only returnee among the Arizona Wildcats' true post players this season, sophomore Angelo Chol technically qualifies as the grizzled veteran of the group.

Except he's still learning. From freshmen.

Of course, these aren't everyday freshmen we're talking about. Arizona has two McDonald's All-Americans in Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley plus a third, Kaleb Tarczewski, who might have been one had he not been ineligible as a high school senior.

So there's no shame in learning from them.

"I feel like I've gotten a lot better since they came here," Chol said. "They're McDonald's All-Americans. Every day is like a war with all three of them. Then you add Matt (Korcheck, the redshirting junior forward), and he's a strong guy. It's really hard."

So hard that already, even a month before full practices begin, Chol is aware that he will have to work harder just to get the average of 12.2 minutes he earned last season.

While the Wildcats relied on Chol a year ago to help shore up an undersized post attack that featured 6-foot-7-inch Jesse Perry at center, after it became clear bigger players weren't effective, this year UA has plenty of options.

The Wildcats can anchor the post with Tarczewski, a 7-footer with surprising mobility. And at the power forward spot, they'll have the luxury of choosing between either Jerrett or Ashley - or working them both in the game at times.

"Grant is really skilled," Chol said. "Brandon can do it all, play face up; he's skilled, too. Kaleb is a big, strong power guy who can finish around the basket. And Matt, he hustles. You've got to keep your energy going with him."

One thing worth noting is that Korcheck, a transfer from Cochise College, is so aware of the Wildcats' freshmen talent and his need to develop that he actually insisted on redshirting this season.

Chol will play, but he doesn't know how much.

"I've got to work hard just to get on the court," he said. "That's how I see it."

To that end, Chol has spent all but a week or so in Tucson this summer - the Sudan native still has an apartment in his adopted hometown of San Diego - while working out on the floor, in the weight room … and in front of the dining table.

While eating more on top of all those workouts, Chol says he now has about 223 pounds on his 6-9 frame. That's up from the 215 he played with last season but still below the range of 230-235 that he and conditioning coach Chris Rounds have been shooting for.

"We're not there yet," Chol said. "But my metabolism's so fast, it's hard."

Still, UA coach Sean Miller said Chol is much bigger and stronger than the "thin and wiry" freshman he was last season, and senior forward Solomon Hill said Chol has become a "more focused" person entering this season.

"He's had his whole year with Rounds, and he's able to see his body mature," Hill said. "I think maybe the first year we kind of threw him into the fire. We expected so much out of him. But now he understands his role. He's more relaxed and comfortable with what he's doing out there. He looks in control at times."

So, while the sheer skill of the UA freshmen could intimidate Chol, he has something they don't have yet: a full season of high-major college basketball experience.

In that sense, he is the veteran.

"Throwing those guys into the fire (as a freshman) really helps you as a sophomore," Miller said. "I think Angelo is better all around. There's a lot he didn't know a year ago, and this year he's more sure of himself. With experience, you get more confidence."

On StarNet: Follow the Cats through the offseason on Bruce Pascoe's blog at