The Arizona Wildcats 2012 recruiting class was rated third-best in the country behind UCLA and Kentucky. Sean Miller needed size, and that was exactly what he got in 7'0'' Kaleb Tarczewski, 6'10'' Grant Jerrett and the lengthy 6'8'' Brandon Ashley. To round out his class he got an explosive guard out of California who looks and plays a lot like Nick Johnson.
The addition of this class has undeniably contributed to the incredible 17-2 start to the 2012-13 season. The big men are each playing around 20 minutes a game, and Tarczewski and Ashley start for the Wildcats.
As more than half the regular season is gone, it is a good time to send out a report card on each of these four stars.
Statistics: 6.4 MPG, 3.3 PPG, 0.4 RPG, 0.0 BPG, 0.8 APG, .458 FG%, .667 FT%, .353 3FG%
When Gabe York gets a chance to play, he plays well. The problem for him is that he is 10th on the depth chart for the Wildcats. That translates to garbage time. When he does see the court it is only when the game is far from doubt. To make a determination on York with this little playing time would be unfair. In the future he is going to be a great player for Arizona, but this year's team is too deep.
Grade: Incomplete. There just hasn't been enough playing time to go around for York.
Statistics: 21.7 MPG, 8.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 0.6 APG, .537 FG%, .727 FT%, 1.000 3FG%
Brandon Ashley has been by far the most consistent freshman Wildcat. From the get-go he has been high-energy, aggressive and fun to watch. He started the season with significant expectations. Nationally, he was the 16th-rated recruit overall, and Doug Gottlieb pinned him as the country's Freshman of the Year.
To open the season, Gottlieb wasn't that far off. Ashley stuffed the stat sheet in his first game. The Wildcats played Charleston Southern, and Ashley finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, one steal and one assist. He followed this up two games later with a double-double against Long Beach State, 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Since that point his game has been up and down. He will play very well, like he did against East Carolina State (another double double: 16 points and 10 boards), but will follow it up with a dud of a game (zero points, three fouls, three turnovers against Miami).
In fact, Ashley's most consistent trait is in inconsistency. If you look at his double-digit games, only once has he followed it up with another double-figure game. In the game against LBS he scored 20; the next he scored two. He scored 12 against Texas Tech and then one point against Southern Miss; 11 against Utah, three against Oregon; 12 against Oregon State, then two against ASU.
The inconsistency is to be expected from a freshman, and for the most part Ashley has been solid. He always finds a way to impact the game. If he is not scoring he is rebounding. In six of the last 10 games he has seven or more rebounds. He plays good defense and brings a high level of intensity.
He has been Arizona's best freshman so far this season.
Statistics: 18.2 MPG, 4.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 0.7 APG, .382 FG%, .769 FT%, .366 3FG%
There is no doubt that Grant Jerrett has a great basketball player in him somewhere. We just haven't been able to see it throughout the season. He hasn't found his rhythm.
This is an understandable for a freshman on a loaded team with lots of players who need their shots. Jerrett plays most of his minutes in deference to the other players on the court. As as result, when he actually gets shots or touches he looks nervous or rushed.
When the game starts to slow down for him is when he is going to take off. But this probably won't be until next season. This is why: in order for Jerrett to be a force he must be consistently aggressive. He will not be consistently aggressive until he feels like he is one of the top scoring options on the team. He won't be a top scoring option on the team until Lyons, Hill and Parrom have graduated.
I have been waiting for a huge scoring game from a guy who can do it all, but that game just has not come. Only three times has Jerrett scored in double figures, and only once in the last 10.
With that said, Jerrett's continued development is key for the Wildcats. Arizona plays in a way that keep many games very close. Having just a few extra points from his position will be monumental to getting close wins. The secret for him is going to be to stay confident and to continue to shoot when he gets the chance.
Considering all the good things Jerrett has done, it is hard to say he is not a moderate disappointment at this time. He came in as the ninth-rated recruit in the country and just hasn't performed up to that level. For that reason he gets the grade below.
Statistics: 21.6 MPG, 5.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 0.4 APG, .489 FG%, .533 FT%,
For the fourth-rated player in the entire country coming in this season, Tarczewski has just not put up the numbers expected.
At times he is totally offensively inept. He will receive the ball in the post and look like he has never played basketball before. He will take a few dribbles, put himself in worse position than he was by doing so, and then will either make a bad pass or take a difficult shot.
As a result, he has scored in double figures only twice; both times it was just 10 points.
At other times he makes good decisions, looks patient and composed and shows why he was rated so highly. But Zeus is a project, and time is the biggest barrier to his greatness.
What I like about Tarczewski is that even when he isn't scoring, he is impacting the game. You can feel his presence on the court in the way Wildcats play with him and the difference without him. They are a stronger, sturdier team with him. They are an intimidating and bruising team when he plays well.
This is why his continued progression is so vital. When he is good, the Wildcats will be great. And let's face it, in a year when the field is wide open like this season, Tarczewski may be the key to a the national championship. If he can start to find his groove in March, watch out for this team.
In summation, thus far he has not played dominating basketball and so he receives a C-plus. But patience is important in the Kaleb Tarczewski saga. He will be very good. The only question is when.