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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Zeus to represent USA in Pan Am games

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Tyler Baker/Arizona Summer Wildcat


Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski (35) puts away a basket during Arizona’s 80-52 win against Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., on March 14. Tarczewski will be the only starter returning to the Wildcats. 

If Arizona basketball wants to remain among the top teams in the nation this upcoming season, center Kaleb Tarczewski will have to carry the Wildcats in ways he hasn’t been required to in the past few years.

That means greater consistency on the court for the seven-footer, who averaged over nine points and five assists last season. It also means taking on a leadership role in the locker room.

The situation will be much different for Tarczewski when he suits up for the United States in the 2015 Pan American Games this week, but his time there could prove invaluable in a couple months.

The Pan Am Games, which are held in Toronto, feature a men’s basketball tournament consisting of eight national teams including Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Play began Tuesday, July 21, when the U.S. took on Venezuela in group stage.

Playing for the U.S., Tarczewski will be among the younger athletes going up against a host of accomplished college and pro players.

While the Pan Am Games are not as widely regarded as some other international events, a number of household names are taking part in men’s basketball.

This list includes international guys like Anthony Bennett, Kyle Wiltjer and Jamal Murray—all playing for Canada—as well as a stocked U.S. team that features college stars Ron Baker from Wichita State, Malcolm Brodgen from Virginia and Romelo Trimble from Maryland.

The U.S. also has a number of professional players on its team, including former Denver Nuggets player Anthony Randolph and former Sacramento Kings center/foward Ryan Hollins, who will likely be the team’s go-to big man.

All of this is to say that Tarczewski will get to experience what it’s like competing with and against top talent on an international stage.

In his first three seasons at Arizona, Tarczewski struggled at times in big-time matchups. Most notably, Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky got the best of Tarczewski twice in back-to-back Elite Eight games.

Now that Tarczewski is back for his senior year, he can put those games behind him and possibly push Arizona over the hump to a Final Four.

What Tarczewski does with the opportunity this week remains to be seen, but if nothing else the Pan Am Games present the big man a chance to face a level of capable opponents he wouldn’t otherwise see until the fall.

While the U.S. faces a seemingly underwhelming body of competition in group stage, a gold medal game versus host Canada looms in the distance.

If that final becomes a reality, Tarczewski will get to face aforementioned Wiltjer, Gonzaga’s 6-foot-10 big man.

Wiltjer is more of an athletic power-forward than a face-up center, but the two college seniors could be asked to clash.

Not only would the matchup provide some irony—Wiltjer’s head coach at Gonzaga, Mark Few, is coaching the U.S. team—but it could foretell what’s in store when Arizona faces Gonzaga in December.

However Tarczewski fares these next few days, a lot of people in Tucson will surely be taking note.

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