FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
Trivia question: Who are the only four Arizona centers in the program’s history to be among the top 10 scorers at that position and the top 10 overall in rebounding and blocked shots?
Kaleb Tarczewski, who had a career-high 15 rebounds in Arizona’s 99-61 victory over ASU at McKale Center, became one of them recently.
Tarczewski is the seventh-leading Arizona center scorer with 1,122 points (ranks No. 41 overall). He ranks tied at No. 9 overall in rebounds with Sean Elliott with 808. He is tied at No. 8 overall in blocked shots with Joseph Blair at 101.
The other three players?
Channing Frye, Anthony Cook and A.J. Bramlett.
Frye ranks as the No. 2 center scorer with 1,789 points, trailing Bob Elliott’s 2,131. He ranks third overall in career rebounds with 975 and second in blocked shots with 258.
Cook is the record-holder in blocked shots with 278. He is the No. 3 center scorer with 1,590 points. He is No. 4 in rebounds with 861.
Bramlett is the No. 8 center scorer with 1,098 points, No. 8 overall with 817 rebounds and No. 7 overall with 104 blocked shots.
In fairness to Bob Elliott, who starred at Arizona from 1974-77, blocked shots were not officially kept until the 1985-86 season. He would certainly be included with Tarczewski, Bramlett, Cook and Frye on this list.
Tarczewski’s performance against ASU with his 15 rebounds in only 25 minutes caught Sean Miller’s attention most among all of the feats of his eight-player rotation.
“I almost wanted (Tarczewski) to get 20 (rebounds) and play him near the end,” said Miller, who took out the senior center for good with 8:31 remaining and Arizona ahead 75-44. “Any time you can get 15 rebounds in 25 minutes I mean that’s an incredible effort.”
Miller’s comments were to Brian Jeffries during the IMG Sports Network postgame show. During the press conference a few minutes later, Miller remarked about Tarczewski: “I have never seen him rebound the ball like that. He looks like an NBA center playing college.”
Miller felt the urge to rave about most of his other rotation players. All of them are playing their basketball with the exception of Kadeem Allen, who showed signs against ASU (12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field) that he is finally breaking out of his funk from an illness.
Duke made a big deal about its national championship with only eight players a year ago using the slogan “Eight is Enough”. That was a rally cry for Mike Krzyzewski, who lost players to injury and discipline, yet found a way to win a national title.
Miller is in the same position this season.
“It has not been an easy journey for this year’s team,” he told Jeffries. “We have been hit with one thing after another for three consecutive months.”
The latest development was Elliott Pitts not sitting courtside with his teammates for the first time this season during the ASU game. The junior guard, who was one of Miller’s best defenders entering the season, played only seven games this season before having to sit for personal reasons. Miller confirmed after the game that Pitts will not return to the team this season to concentrate on his academics and personal matters.
During preseason drills, Miller lost for the whole season his best NBA prospect, wing player Ray Smith, to a torn ACL. Smith was Miller’s only true small forward on the roster.
MOST CAREER VICTORIES IN GAMES PLAYED
Note: Gabe York is at 102 wins.
ARIZONA’S TOP SCORING CENTERS
Rank: Overall school ranking.
MOST CAREER REBOUNDS
MOST CAREER BLOCKED SHOTS
Tarczewski was lost for an eight-game stretch after the first five games of the season because of a lingering foot injury. Freshman phenom Allonzo Trier missed six games after breaking his right hand at USC, capping a weekend in which Arizona was swept in Los Angeles by the Trojans and UCLA.
Despite the hardships, Arizona stands alone at the top of the Pac-12 with a 10-4 record and is 22-5 overall. Leading the conference this year is no small feat with as many six or seven teams potentially making the NCAA tournament field.
Miller has clearly settled on his eight-man rotation and plans to ride into March with those guys carrying the bulk of the load. Despite the blowout against ASU developing at the start of the second half, Miller played freshmen Chance Comanche and Justin Simon only six minutes each.
One of Miller’s best attributes as a head coach is that he does not waver from a stance, such as riding out an eight-player rotation the rest of the way. He won’t inject Comanche and Simon at random points of the game. He wants his rotation firm with the postseason coming up in three weeks.
Miller has always insisted that practice players get more opportunities in games. He has made the decision to replace Allen with Parker Jackson-Cartwright permanently at point guard although Allen started 23 games before falling ill in the last couple of weeks. “He’s earned it,” Miller says of Jackson-Cartwright’s starting role.
Jackson-Cartwright has responded well on both ends of the court, compiling 16 assists with only three turnovers in his last three starts against UCLA, USC and ASU at McKale Center. He had seven assists and no turnovers in 27 minutes against ASU while his counterpart Tra Holder never got on track shooting 3-of-11 from the field and scoring only 10 points in 30 minutes.
“Parker’s on-the-ball defense has never been better,” said Miller, who added that his team’s defensive effort “is getting better, not by leaps and bounds, but it is better.” He pointed out ASU’s 61-point output, on 32.3 percent shooting, after the Sun Devils scored 82 in a 94-82 loss to Arizona on Jan. 3 in Tempe.
The Wildcats nearly doubled ASU’s rebound total with a 50-26 margin. Trier had a career-high eight rebounds. He had two assists, one of them was a thing of beauty, a wrap-around bounce pass in transition to Dusan Ristic for an uncontested jam.
That play is Arizona’s season in microcosm to this point. Trier has matured from a player who likely would have taken a shot or turned the ball in a similar instance early in the season to a player who is unselfish and building up the team rather than his own agenda.
Arizona as a whole has matured and is playing its best basketball with only four games left in the regular season.
The fact that Tarczewski is establishing himself as one of the best centers to wear the Arizona uniform accentuates the senior leadership of the team that includes the productive play of senior Gabe York, one of the program’s best long-range shooters.
A vocal, get-in-your-face leader like T.J. McConnell is not part of this team. But efficiency from most of his rotation, led by Tarczewski’s bullish effort on the boards recently, is speaking volumes where it counts the most, in the win column.
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.