Few elite players in the nation have had to wait their turn for the spotlight like St. Mark's senior center Kaleb Tarczewski. The New Hampshire-bred 7-footer has played alongside the likes of the Murphy brothers (Erik and Alex), Nate Lubick, and Melsahn Basabe. Obviously, the Arizona-bound big man has not flown under the radar, as ESPNU currently ranks him as the No. 6 overall prospect in the class of 2012.
This past weekend at the HoopHall Classic, at Springfield College's Blake Arena, Tarczewski showed off a much-improved all-around game against Friends Central from the Philadelphia area. Friends Central features another one of the top prospects in 2012 by the name of Amile Jefferson.
Here are some video clips and observations about Tarczewski's improvement:
Scouts love Tarczewski because he represents something that the game of basketball is lacking at the moment. He is a true center. He does not try to take outside shots or put the ball on the floor. Tarczewski focuses on scoring near the basket and protecting it on defense.
At the same time, Tarczewski has developed his court vision and passing skills nicely.
Obviously, players with Tarczewski’s size demand a lot of attention by the defense. Some will know how to handle it, and some will not. Tarczewski has mastered the art of drawing the defense and finding an open teammate. Out of all of these assists (or potential assists), the second-to-last clip is the most impressive. This one truly looked like Tarczewski was going to take it to the basket. In fact, if you look at his eyes, it is pretty unbelievable that he even saw Eli Lubick in the corner.
Having a big man with court vision is a valuable asset to any team, and this is a great sign for Tarczewski’s development.
In the past, some of Tarczewski’s critics said that his post moves looked a bit robotic and ineffective. That has certainly changed. Tarczewski looks a lot more comfortable with the ball in his hands and has developed great footwork in the post. Here are some of his nice moves from the game:
Each clip is self-explanatory: Tarczewski finds a way to get it done. He uses his big body and athleticism to his advantage. Even though he was the biggest player on the floor, his body control and touch around the rim for a 7-footer were impressive.
Tarczewski is not the defensive presence that you would think he is. At the same time, however, he is a smart defensive player. He rarely leaves his feet, because he knows that a player of his size should never really leave the floor. He only jumps if he knows he can block the shot.
In the first two clips, Tarczewski’s presence alone makes Friends Central turn the ball over. They were afraid to take it in, which made them make bad passes to players on the perimeter. In the third clip, Amile Jefferson actually scores on Tarczewski. This was good defense because he stayed on his feet and forced Jefferson to make a difficult hook shot. When you play against elite players, the only thing you can do defensively is make them take tough shots and Tarczewski did just that. In the last two clips, Tarczewski uses patience to block two shots in the lane.
While a 22-point performance against one of the nation's top prospects sounds perfect, no player ever has a perfect game. Tarczewski did have a few possessions where he did not take care of the ball. It is important for basketball players to take care of the ball, because every possession counts. You never know when a game will come down to one possession. A dropped ball could be the sole thing separating a team from a win versus a loss.
Here are three possessions where Tarczewski turns the ball over without the defender even touching him:
It was not a big deal in this game, because St. Mark's held a solid lead for most of the game. It is important, however, to keep track of the little things like valuing the ball.
Let's keep in mind Tarczewski was playing against a team with one player standing at 6-foot-9, and the rest of the team was 6-foot-5 or shorter. We cannot deem Tarczewski the next great true center in the game of basketball from this one performance.
What impressed us was his improvement. Tarczewski’s game has come a long way from where he was two years ago. If he keeps focusing on improving and keying in on the little things like taking care of the ball, Tarczewski will be in for a bright future in Tucson.