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Claremont Basketball Star Plays Center For Sweet Sixteen Wildcats

Courtesy Arizona Athletics

UPDATE: The Arizona Wildcats defeated San Diego State Thursday night, 70-64, and advanced to the Elite Eight. Tarczewski scored 7 points. He also had two blocks, one rebound and one assist.

Arizona now plays Wisconsin Saturday. The game starts at 8:49 p.m on TBS.

There have been some sleepy basketball fans in New Hampshire the past week, but it's the price one pays to watch a familiar face in the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament.

Kaleb Tarczewski, the 7-foot center for the University of Arizona, is a native of Claremont, and has been a key component in his school's run to the Sweet 16. Tonight he will lead the Wildcats onto the floor in Anaheim, Calif., to play San Diego State in the West Region semifinals. Tipoff is scheduled for after 10 p.m. New Hampshire time, which means another late night for Bill McIver, Tarczewski's former coach at Stevens High School in Claremont.

"It's been a lot of fun to watch him," McIver said. "Although playing on the west coast, there are some late night games. But it's worth it. It's been fun watching him succeed."

Credit Courtesy Valley News
Stevens' Kaleb Tarczewski (30) fights for a rebound with Prospect Mountain's Ryan Hingston, center, as the Cardinals' Travis Drewing (23) offers assistance on March 18, 2009. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

The sophomore center played his first two years of high-school basketball at Stevens, where he helped the 2009 team to the best regular-season record in Division III and a berth in the state semifinals.

"We always knew he was really physically gifted," said Cody Nichols, Tarczewski's teammate on the 2009 Stevens team. "He could always run the floor. He grew a lot in a short time. He was a little gangly and it took him a while to adjust, but we knew he'd have a chance to play in college. He's a lot physically stronger now than he was in high school."

Nichols has probably been a little sleep deprived this week as well. He's been playing close attention to Arizona's tournament run, and it's brought back fond memories of the 2009 Stevens team.

"We were all such good friends on and off the court," Nichols said. "It was easy for us to translate that on to the court. We all still stay in touch."

So far this season, Tarczewski has averaged 10 points a game for Arizona, which is the No. 1 seed in the West Region, and is searching for its first berth in the Final Four since 2001. The Wildcats won the NCAA championship in 1997.

It took some time for Tarczewski to fill out his 7-foot frame. He stood at around 6-foot-10 when he played at Stevens, then experienced a growth spurt after he transferred to St. Mark's School in Southborough, Mass., a private boarding school. Now he is regarded as an especially athletic center at the D-I college level.

"He runs like a 6-footer," McIver said. "He's not a prototypical 7-footer who lumbers down the court. He has a great long stride that makes him athletic. He's developed into a 'back-to-the-basket' center, but he can shoot too. He beats most of the other centers down the floor."

Credit Courtesy Arizona Athletics
Tarczewski's official head shot and bio

Tarczewski took his game to St. Mark's after his sophomore year at Stevens. He helped St. Mark's to four consecutive NEPSAC championship games, including a victory in the 2012 Class AA title game. He received a scholarship offer from Arizona, and enrolled in the fall of 2012

"Kaleb’s been one of our hardest workers from the day he stepped on campus," Arizona coach Sean Miller told the Arizona Daily Star in February. "That quality doesn’t always transcend to a 7-footer. (Kaleb) puts his time in."

In many ways, Tarczewski is still finding his way in big-time college basketball. 

"I just think in general he’s getting better," Miller told the Arizona Republic in February. "You watch him very day, and he’s one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever been around. He deserves success."

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