ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Arizona Wildcats have played a total of 1,495 minutes this season.
For 1,393 of them, Matt Korcheck has been on the bench.
So there he was, warm-up still on, in his normal spot on the UA’s sideline during the Wildcats’ thrilling 72-70 win over Michigan in December.
With two minutes remaining in the game and his team up one, Korcheck pulled assistant undergraduate coach Joseph Blair to the side. Blair, who coaches the team’s big men, shared a moment with Korcheck that he’ll never forget.
“He comes up to me and says ‘JB, I’ve never been a part of anything like this before; this is what it’s all about,’” Blair relayed. “Just hearing him say something like that gave me goose bumps.”
Like 14 other games this season, Korcheck didn’t play that game. But the 6-foot-10-inch, 230 pound forward from Sabino High School didn’t really care.
Wearing the Arizona cardinal and navy means far more to him than any amount of playing time another program could offer.
“When I committed to Arizona, I talked to Coach (Sean) Miller about things and he told me the role I was going to have right off the bat,” Korcheck said. “I wasn’t worried about playing time or being a superstar. I just wanted to be a part of a winning program and be a part of Arizona.”
Korcheck has only played more than 10 minutes in a game three times this season, but values his job for the 33-4 Wildcats.
But what exactly is that job?
The Cochise College transfer draws the responsibility of going up against UA center Kaleb Tarczewski in practice. Miller, Blair and the other coaches give him simple instructions: foul the heck out of Tarczewski and make his life miserable.
“He bruises and we’re practically fighting each other for position everyday,” Tarczewski said. “The coaches want me to learn how to finish through contact and Matt’s helped me a lot with that this year. Every team needs a guy like him. He’s incredibly unselfish and puts the team first everyday.”
Added Blair: “He goes in there and gets Kaleb ready. He fouls the hell out of Kaleb everyday so when Kaleb gets in the game, he can play stronger and harder because he’s used to Matt Korcheck.”
When Korcheck graduated from Sabino in 2009, he headed to Cochise for two seasons under coach Jerry Carrillo. He averaged 8.3 points per game as a freshman and 14.7 as a sophomore.
After that season, Korcheck drew offers from Auburn, Baylor, New Mexico, Oklahoma and TCU along with Arizona. He turned down more minutes to play for the program he rooted for throughout his entire Sabino career.
“Living in Tucson, everybody knows how important Arizona basketball is and being able to experience that from the inside has been very cool,” Korcheck said. “It’s not hard to be a part of something great like this. I think it would be a lot harder and much more difficult to stay motivated if things weren’t going as well. We have a great group of guys here. We have a great coaching staff. We have a great overall program.
“I just enjoy every aspect of it.”
Before he found his place at Arizona, Korcheck was part of one of the greatest recruiting classes in Tucson prep history, joining Bryce Cotton (Providence), Terrell Stoglin (Maryland), Michael Perez (UTEP/Nevada) and a few others.
“I’ve known these guys since middle school when I was just figuring out the game,” Korcheck said. “To see how far they’ve gotten is amazing. Tucson isn’t known for guys like that, but they made it happen.”
And don’t forget, Korcheck still has another year to improve and possibly accomplish some of the things Cotton and Co. have been able to.
After redshirting last season, Korcheck has continued to develop since his days at Sabino and Cochise. He’s worked on developing his offensive post moves and guarding without fouling.
He’s pursing a degree in human sciences and social behavior and would like to pursue a job in fitness, possible as a physical trainer.
He knows one thing he has no interest in.
“I know I could never be a coach,” Korcheck said smiling. “I see a lot of the things that Coach Miller goes through and it seems pretty stressful.”