In recent years, the evolution of NBA basketball has led to the desire for more versatile, athletic centers under 7 feet tall.
College centers are starting to look up to NBA stars like the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh and the Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah, who both have the ability to post up and possess decent jump shots.
Kaleb Tarczewski, a 7-foot, 250-pound sophomore, will be Arizona’s starting center, and while he excels at rebounding, dunking and blocking, his repertoire doesn’t feature much of a jump shot. Last year, the Claremont, N.H., native played an average of 22 minutes, compiling 6.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He additionally compiled 23 blocks, 14 assists and 10 steals on the year.
Tarczewski represents a dying breed of the true center, a 7-foot and taller big man that is starting to disappear from the game. In the 2014 recruiting class, 11 of ESPN’s top 15 centers are under 7 feet, meaning that college coaches are gaining interest in more athletically built, shorter centers.
When asked about the offseason, Tarczewski said that he was working on becoming a more well-rounded, athletic player.
“I worked hard [this summer], definitely harder than I have before,” Tarczewski said. “[I’m] really just trying to get in better, more athletic shape, and [I] did a lot of drills during the offseason to work on footwork.”
During last week’s press conference, Miller hinted at the possibility of playing with a three-guard lineup, which features three guards and two forwards playing without a center. This would create a smaller and faster lineup but would take Tarczewski out of the equation.
In this situation, the three guards would be juniors T.J. McConnell and Nick Johnson and either sophomore Gabe York, freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or freshman Elliott Pitts. Brandon Ashley, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, would be the power forward and freshman Aaron Gordon would be small forward to create a smaller, faster lineup.
Miller has done this before — two years ago, after former Wildcat Kyryl Natyazhko failed to live up to expectations, the Wildcats went with a three-guard lineup consistently featuring Josiah Turner, Kyle Fogg and Johnson as guards and Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry as forwards.
Basketball is evolving to where there is no real need for a true center, and because of that, Tarczewski’s value may be skewed as he moves on to the NBA.
The very big, big men are going the way of the dinosaurs.
—Luke Della contributed reporting to this article
— Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17