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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Kaleb Tarczewski finds senior groove

Arizona+center+Kaleb+Tarczewski+%2835%29+displays+his+Wildcat+pride+in+McKale+Center+on+Wednesday%2C+Feb.+17.+Tarczewski+scored+six+points+against+Arizona+State+and+grabbed+a+career-high+15+rebounds.+
Tyler Baker
Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski (35) displays his Wildcat pride in McKale Center on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Tarczewski scored six points against Arizona State and grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds.

The viral image of Arizona head coach Sean Miller an inch away from senior center Kaleb Tarczewski’s face late in the Wildcats’ home loss to University of Oregon is nothing but a foggy memory. 

Whatever Miller discussed with Tarczewski could turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as the Wildcats are striding and a huge portion of Arizona’s success runs through him. 

The issue of Tarczewski not being considered Arizona’s most viable player isn’t because he’s not productive, but rather because he is embracing the role as the player that accomplishes the little tasks to mold the team. Sure, he’s not creating flashy plays like Allonzo Trier, switching hands while going up for layup, or nailing 3-pointers like Gabe York, but Tarczewski is one of those players that could be considered the final piece to the puzzle for a championship run. 

The only problem, according to Miller, is that Arizona fans won’t notice his presence as a leader until he’s long gone from Tucson. 

“He just does things that most people can’t do,” Miller said. “Not until he’s not here will everybody know what I mean. … I already know how that’s going to feel.”

Miller may have a point when talking about his senior center. Since returning from a broken foot injury, Tarczewski went on a double-digit scoring streak, averaging 12.5 points per game. 

The altercation between a frustrated coach and an unconfident center may spark a new fire in Tarczewski. 

Since the loss to the Ducks, Tarczewski has averaged 11 rebounds per game. He also earned a career high 15 rebounds during Wednesday’s 99-61 victory over ASU, which is the largest margin of victory over the Sun Devils since 1988. 

“I have never seen him rebound the ball like he’s rebounding,” Miller said. “As he comes down to the home stretch of his senior year, he’s really made rebounding his calling. I’m telling you watching him right now, I have a hard time believing he won’t have a long career in the NBA.”

As the regular season is on the brink of concluding, with only a pair of road games and home games, the legacy of the senior was questioned by Miller, according to Tarczewski.

“Coach Miller said it the other day, ‘What do you guys want your legacy to be like?’ and I just want it to be a great one,” Tarczewski said. “I just want to make it the best and enjoy my time. It’s been a long road and I just want it to pay off.”

The whole legacy conversation and being remembered as a legend sounds cliché because every senior goes through the phase of feeling heroic on the statistics sheet. 

It’s Tarczewski final season and once it’s over, it’s all about getting into the NBA. Tarczewski, however, realizes that his draft stock can only rise if he’s playing the role that keeps the team collected enough to win.    

“As a big man you can get worried about not getting the ball or not scoring enough,” Tarczewski said. “Someone really told me one time it’s not about numbers, it’s about the letters. It’s not about the points and how many rebounds you get. It’s about how many wins your team has.” 

Tarczewski won his 107th game in an Arizona uniform against ASU on Wednesday and is two wins shy of advancing past Matt Muehlebach for all-time wins in program history.  

“If he leaves here as the all-time winningest player in Arizona basketball history, after missing the number of games he’s missed this year, there’s not a remarkable thing that’s ever happened for an individual at Arizona,” Miller said. “Coach Olson would agree with me.”

The two had their differences, but the make-up stage between Tarczewski and Miller is in full swing and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as March Madness is right around the corner


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