When Dwight Tarwater graduated from Cornell (with a 3.0 GPA), after playing four years of Ivy League basketball, he still wanted more. Good thing that California assistant Yanni Hufnagel not only coached against Tarwater while at Harvard, but he, himself, is also a fellow, former Big Red.
“He did coach at Harvard for a couple of years, and he coached against me when I was at Cornell, so we’ve known of each other for a while, and never really officially met until April,” Tarwater said on Wednesday morning. “I think that had a little bit to do with it.”
It, of course being Tarwater’s decision to attend the graduate school of public health at Berkeley, and play one more year of collegiate ball for the Golden Bears under new head coach Cuonzo Martin, who he watched very closely over the past three years at Tennessee.
“It was a pretty easy decision for me,” said the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder. “The University really speaks for itself. It’s a very prestigious University, it’s a great place for me to get my Master’s, and I’ve followed coach Martin very closely at Tennessee. I’m from Knoxville, so I grew up a big Vols fan. I just have all the respect in the world for him, and how he handles things. To me, it was just a home-run opportunity, and I just had to take it.”
Tarwater very much appreciated the job Martin did in Knoxville given the pressure that he was under, especially this past season, when, in the face of calls for his ouster, he guided the Volunteers to a Sweet 16 appearance.
“I didn’t have much of a take on it. I didn’t necessarily agree with how a lot of Vols fans viewed coach Martin,” Tarwater said. “I felt that he did a great job with those guys, and, again, I had all the respect in the world for him. I just didn’t have much of an opinion on how that whole thing was handled.”
Not only did Martin impress him, but the academic reputation of Cal spoke for itself, as well.
“I’ve known that I was going to go there since right after graduation, which was mid-May, but this whole application process has taken a while. I just received my letter of acceptance [Tuesday], so that’s when it kind of leaked out,” Tarwater said. “When the season ended at Cornell, like a lot of seniors, you’re exhausted. Four years is a long time of just playing straight basketball. I talked to my family about it, and I just realized that I was still hungry for more, and I still had passion for the game, and I wasn’t done yet. I sat down with my coach, and we discussed how a fifth year was going to be an opportunity, and then, about in the middle of April, I got a call from coach Hufnagel, and we were going back and forth for a while. He told me that the opportunity at Cal was open for me, and coach Martin followed it up, and he really wowed me with everything that he had to say. Basically, I haven’t even visited the campus. I just told Coach, ‘I’ve heard too many good things about the place, and if you offered right now, I’ll take it on the spot, and you can do whatever you need to do.’ That’s kind of how it happened.”
Tarwater doesn’t quite know what he plans to do with his Master’s degree in public health, after majoring in business at Cornell, but he does know what the Bears expect of him on the court.
“I’m obviously going to do whatever coach Martin wants me to do, but I think he’s bringing me in as a stretch four, someone who brings a ton of energy, plays defense and just knocks down shots,” said Tarwater, who shot 31.9% from three-point range, pulled down 5.5 boards per game and averaged 7.1 points per contest, starting all 28 games as a senior co-captain. “I think that’s what I can bring to the table. I’m going to bring a lot of energy and try my hardest with everything that I do, and when the opportunity to make shots counts, I’ll be ready.”
Tarwater adds a big body to a thin post rotation that lost Richard Solomon to graduation and Kameron Rooks to a torn ACL, and has only veteran David Kravish, project freshman Kingsley Okoroh and oft-injured Christian Behrens to compete for time at the four.
Given that reality, Tarwater isn’t entirely clear on what his role will be; just that it will be to have one.
“I have no idea. I haven’t really talked to the coaches about that, yet, and it will come down to how I do in workouts and practices and everything,” he said. “The coaches told me that every minute I get, I have to earn it. I’ll be trying to earn those minutes.”
Tarwater said that he should arrive on campus “in the next week or so” to start working out with the team.
IN-DEPTH: Dwight Shoots
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