Arizona sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski
put together a solid, albeit not spectacular, sophomore campaign, helping Sean Miller's Wildcats win 33 games before they fell to Wisconsin in overtime in the Elite Eight. Ranked among the nation's top high school players coming out of St. Mark (MA) in 2012, Tarczewski started all but one game for one of the nation's best programs averaging 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per-game while improving his numbers across the board from his freshman year.
Tarczewski's resume for the next level starts with his tremendous size. Standing a shade under 7-0 in shoes with a chiseled frame, the New Hampshire native certainly looks the part of NBA center. The main knock against the big man's physical profile is that he doesn't have prototypical length, sporting an underwhelming 6'11 wingspan.
Tarczewski's size and strength remains a critical part of his ability to contribute offensively, as his skill level and touch remain a work in progress. The St. Mark's (MA) product is at his best in simple catch and finish situations, whether he was sealing his man on the high side in the post or crashing to the rim from the weakside when his defender rotates, Tarczewski was very effective last season, shooting 65% in finishing situations in the half court according to Synergy Sports Technology.
More of a complementary option on a Arizona squad that was still quite balanced and NBA-talent heavy even after Brandon Ashley
was lost for the year, the majority of Tarczewski's possessions a year came on the block, where he looked to have developed a better understanding of how to use his physical tools more effectively. Shooting a very solid 47.7% with his back to the basket, Tarczewski doesn't have great hands, overly polished footwork, or one truly refined post-move, but his ability to carve out position and bully his way to easy scoring angles allowed him to contribute one-on-one inside. Though he possesses nice touch on his right handed-baby hook, he looks very mechanical at times in the post, lacking the feel, fluidity, and midrange ability that would give him obvious upside as more than a finisher at the next level offensively.
With Aaron Gordon
and Nick Johnson
making the jump to the NBA, Arizona will be looking to replace their top-2 scorers from a year ago, and while Tarczewski may seem like a prime candidate to assume a feature role, he'll face plenty of competition from a healthy Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
and a deep, talented group of freshman. Among the least
prolific per-minute pace-adjusted scorers in our top-100, at just 14.4 per-40, this season will be a significant one for the 21 year old big man in terms of his perception among NBA scouts. If he can make strides as an offensive player by improving his touch and feel in the post, he could solidify himself as one of the Wildcat's primary weapons, but if he can't, he could once again get lost in an increasingly deep and talented cast of high-level recruits.
Given that Tarczewski is still developing as a scorer, his regression as a rebounder a year ago was a bit concerning. After averaging 11 rebounds per-40 minutes pace-adjusted as a freshman, he pulled down just 8.9 as a sophomore. Some of that drop-off can be attributed to the presence of Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson, and he does a very good job keeping his man off the glass when boxing out, but given Tarczewski's size, he seems to lack the instincts to be the rebounder his physical tools give him the opportunity to be, as he doesn't corral caroms outside of his area often or pull down the ball at the highest point. It will be worth watching how much of a presence he can provide this season, as his lack of length and average feel for the game are already concerns among NBA decision makers, and an inability to rebound at a high rate on either end of the floor only makes those weaknesses all the more glaring.
Defensively, Tarczewski plays with terrific intensity, and though he'll bite on some fakes inside, he showed more discipline a year ago defending the rim, helping him stay out of foul trouble. Showing the ability to step out and defend the midrange and use his strength in the post, Tarczewski's lack of length limits his presence as a weakside shot-blocker, but he is among the better individual post defenders in the college game.
Looking ahead, last season was a year of incremental growth for the highly-touted Tarczewski, and his ability to continue or accelerate along his learning curve will be something scouts keep a close eye on from the jump this season. The same age as most college seniors, turning 22 in February, there are some concerns about how much upside Tarczewski still has to grow into, which is why scouts will want to see improvement from him in different areas. He isn't the first big man who didn't blossom as anticipated early on in his college career and certainly won't be the last, but there's plenty of things he does well, which coupled with his size, make him an obvious prospect of interest whenever he declares.