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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Leaving a legacy: Seniors say one last goodbye to Arizona

Jesus Barrera

Seniors Kaleb Tarczewski and Ryan Anderson reflect on Arizona’s 65-55 loss to Wichita State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Providence, Rhode Island on Thursday, March 17. Tarczewski became the program’s winningest player this year and Anderson played in his first March Madness.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Twenty-eight seconds remained on the clock. Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Dusan Ristic and Chance Comanche slowly stood up from the bench and half-jogged to the scorer’s table.

Ryan Anderson looked over at Jackson-Cartwright. “Am I out?” Anderson said.

He knew. The team knew. And Sean Miller knew. It was over.

The Wildcats trailed Wichita State by 10 at that point. A season with so many ups and downs was coming to a premature close. In that final 28 seconds, seasoned veterans like Anderson, Gabe York and Kaleb Tarczewski walked off the court for the final time in an Arizona jersey.

Sean Miller awaited each as they came out of the game. First he hugged Tarczewski, the winningest player in Arizona history. Then came York, a kid who rarely played as a freshman but stayed to become a vital role player on two Elite Eight teams and took over as a starter his final season. 

And finally, Miller embraced Anderson, a blue-collar, physical player who spent a year watching from the bench before becoming a double-double machine for the Wildcats.

Each had their own story. Each will leave with their own legacy.

“It’s been a great ride,” a tearful Anderson said after the game. “It’s something I’ll never forget. [It’s] been the best year of my life.”

Anderson had never been a part of the NCAA Tournament before. While he put together an impressive three-year career at Boston College, the Eagles never saw March Madness the way Arizona regularly does.

“As the clock wound down, I told coach thanks for letting me play here,” Anderson said. “I feel like I’ve been here for four years and it’s only been two. These guys and the fans that have supported us all year have really made it special.”

Anderson had a career year with the Wildcats. After sitting last season due to transfer rules, he averaged career highs with 15.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. A starter from the beginning, Anderson’s toughness and leadership drove the helm of this Wildcat team.

Mark Tollefsen was another one-and-done senior at Arizona. As a graduate transfer, he played three years at the University of San Francisco before coming down South to finish his career.

Similar to Anderson, he came to Arizona to get his first crack at the NCAA Tournament. Tollefsen started a couple of games early in the season and again in the middle when freshman Allonzo Trier broke his hand. He averaged seven points per game while averaging about 21 minutes throughout the season.

He will be best remembered as the player who gave Arizona life in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal against Oregon.

Tollefsen hit a 3 late in the game to bring the Wildcats within four. He later stole an Oregon inbound pass and was fouled on his shot, making one free throw to send the game into overtime and complete a furious Arizona comeback in the second half.

“For me, I try to enjoy the moment,” Tollefsen after the semifinal against Oregon. “So many kids in a park can say, ‘3…2…1…shoot’ or these free throws are to win the game. I think every basketball player, every kid in the nation, thinks that to themselves at one point. For me, I was just trying to enjoy it.”

Miller compared York and Tarczewski to Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker because of the history and experience all of these players have endured over their collegiate careers. They’ve played in big games and seen a lot of winning.

For York and Tarczewski, they close their Arizona careers decorated and appreciated.

“These two guys, … it’s going to be really really hard to say goodbye to both,” Miller said at the press conference after the first-round loss to Wichita State. “When you think of the word ‘legacy’ in college basketball, Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York have a legacy at Arizona. A legacy of winning, tremendous people and great kids.”

York finished this season averaging 15 points per game while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc, both career highs. Not bad for a kid who averaged only six minutes as a freshman.

“We’ve done everything we possibly could to become better basketball players and become better people,” York said. “The name on our chest was so much more than us just being a basketball team. We had friends and brothers come through here. It’s definitely tough to have it all end this quickly. I love Arizona and I’m always going to be a part of Arizona.”

Tarczewski started almost immediately his freshman season as a five-star center from Claremont, New Hampshire. He finished this year with a career-high 9.3 rebounds per game while also averaging just over nine points.

His final victory in a Wildcat uniform against Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament made him the all-time wins leader in program history.

“My four years at Arizona have really shaped me into the person that I have become. I really owe it to everyone. All the great players that I have played along with. The coaches who have been like father figures to not only myself but the team,” Tarczewski said. “I really want to say that I’m proud of this year’s team.”

And don’t forget Jacob Hazzard, another four-year player for Arizona. Though he never saw time in this year’s postseason, nobody will forget his final game on Senior Night in McKale Center when he played for seven minutes and knocked down three 3-point baskets.

Five seniors. Five legacies.

Goodbyes are never easy. The NCAA Tournament is filled with glory and outstanding basketball, but watching players come out of the game for the final time strikes an emotional cord with any coach, player or fan.

Beloved athletes come and go each year. Fans attach themselves to guys like York and Tarczewski and grow with them over the course of four years. Though their time with Arizona has come to a close, their memories and legacies play on.

Also Read: How Wichita State took a page out of Sean Miller’s book to upset the Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter.

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