Big Man, Big Attention

Kaleb Tarczewski is a big man that has been attracting some big-time attention throughout the summer. Along the way, the 7-foot center and Class of 2012 prospect helped lead his New England Playaz AAU team to the championship of the 17U division at the Hoop Group Jam Fest tournament in Morgantown, W.Va., last week.

But Morgantown was just one of several stops Tarczewski and the Playaz have made this summer, traveling from Arkansas to Kansas, from North Carolina to Indianapolis, and from the mountains of West Virginia to Las Vegas.

Along the way, the four-star prospect and No. 5 center in his class has benefitted from playing alongside a star-studded line-up that includes four-star small forward Alex Murphy (a high school teammate of Tarczewski at St. Mark's School in Southborough, Mass.) and Markus Kennedy (who will play at Villanova in 2011.)

To top that off, the Playaz are being coached by John Carroll, who was the head coach at Duquesne in the 1990s and was the interim coach of the Boston Celtics after the resignation of Jim O'Brien in 2004, just before Doc Rivers was hired.

It all adds up to a great learning experience for a young big man like Tarczewski.

"I get to play against Markus, who is a bigger guy, and it's good for me to work against him," Tarczewski said. "But I think playing with these people, like Alex and stuff, it kind of makes things easier. It almost takes the pressure off you. Obviously, it makes for a better game and it's really fun to play with them."

"When I get to watch Markus, he's got really good hands and he is really good at finishing around the rim and has some good post moves. So I get to watch him a little bit and maybe use some of his stuff."

Tarczewski would do well by himself to take a few pages out of Kennedy's book, as the younger center admits he still has a long way to go in his game. When asked about his greatest strengths as a player, the 7-footer struggled to come up with a list, instead choosing to emphasize just how much more he has to work on.

"I'd say everything, I have to work on, to be honest," he said. "I'd say I run the floor well. I work hard. I need to work on my skill stuff and knowledge about the game. I need that passion to go get the ball and always be on the boards and stuff like that. I think my game needs more work than anything right now. But I work hard."

Carroll has tried to instill some of that aggression in his younger center, as he was easily audible at Jam Fest, repeatedly voicing his displeasure when Tarczewski failed to fight for rebounds.

But the flaws in Tarczewski's game do little to mask his obvious potential.

Unlike many players of his height, Tarczewski is relatively well-coordinated and athletic. He moves well without the ball and puts himself in good position to score. His hands and ability to finish at the goal still need work, but in time, it's quite likely that Tarczewski will justify his lofty position in the Top 75 for 2012 (currently coming in at No. 16).

That's why a lengthy list of schools has lined up to offer the big center. Among them are Arizona, Boston College, Georgetown, Indiana, Kansas, Providence, Virginia, Wake Forest and West Virginia.

But Tarczewski was quick to mention three that had not yet done so -- Duke, Florida and North Carolina. Gators head coach Billy Donovan was among a large group of coaches that watched at least one of Tarczewski's games in Morgantown as well.

Unlike some, the center said he is in no rush to get through the recruiting process.

"I don't think there's really a list at the moment or that there's really a timetable either," Tarczewski said. "I'm just going until I feel comfortable, and whether that's at Duke or Carolina or a smaller level school, it's really just wherever I feel comfortable at."

"This has all happened pretty fast. I haven't had [the attention] for the past few years or anything. It's all been in the last few months. So I don't really mind taking my time and finding out what's best for me [so I don't] commit to anything and then find out it isn't what I want. I'm definitely going to take my time and talk to people about it."

The Morgantown Jam Fest event, which Tarczewski's New England Playaz won with a victory over Ohio-based Friends 4 Life, gave him a chance to briefly check out the WVU campus and facilities. He came away impressed.

"I got to see a little bit of the [Coliseum], so that was kind of cool," he said. "The campus, the buildings and stuff, I haven't had a tour and stuff, but the campus seems gigantic and the buildings all look nice from the outside. It seems like a great school."

But it will take more than top-notch facilities if Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins hopes to beat out a litany of other schools for Tarczewski's services.

"It's going to kind of be where I feel comfortable," he said. "Obviously, when I refine my game, I really want to be able to fit into the program I go into. I want to really feel like it's a family there with the coaching staff and everybody. That's what I really want."

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