PGU spent the last four days in Las Vegas following Arizona’s top prospects. One of the highest priorities was watching Kaleb Tarczewski of the New England Playaz. We saw every one of Tarczewski’s games, as did coach Sean Miller. Often times there was a second Arizona coach in attendance as well. Kansas head coach Bill Self was in attendance for most games, and a Kansas assistant was there every time Self was not.
From talking to those in and around the recruitment, it appears Arizona and Kansas are in a heated battle for Tarczewski. Officially, Tarczewski’s final four are Kansas, Arizona, North Carolina, and Kentucky. But the sentiment is that Kansas held a lead heading into the summer due to Tarczewski’s excellent relationship with Kansas assistant Joe Dooley and the excellent track record of big man coach Danny Manning.
“I really like Lawrence,” said Tarczewski. “Kansas is great. It feels like home. The coaches made me feel comfortable and if I went there I know I would be in good hands. I trust that the coaches will make me better.”
Tarczewski’s AAU coach John Carroll agrees.
“Coach Dooley has recruited him hard,” said Carroll. “Probably harder than anyone in the country. He’s done everything a coach can possibly do. The staff has been to every game they’ve needed to be, and they’ve always been on the phone when they needed to be.”
However, despite multiple visits to the Kansas campus, the high comfort level, and the fact that Kansas has been around since the beginning, Tarczewski did not commit before the summer. His family wanted him to take his visits and consider his options. In addition, the fact is that once a recruit commits they generally fall off the map in terms of attention and coverage.
Tarczewski took summer visits to Kansas, Arizona, and North Carolina. Those schools round out his top four, along with Kentucky. Each visit went well, and Tarczewski had positive things to say about each school.
“North Carolina was great,” said Tarczewski. “They are one of the most historic basketball programs. The campus was gorgeous, and what impressed me the most was the coaching staff.”
“I got to sit down with coach Williams,” Tarczewski said. “He’s such a trustworthy guy. He tells you what he’s thinking. I like honest coaches. I want there to be a family feel, and having a coach like that really helps. I could definitely see myself playing for him.”
North Carolina was a little late to Tarczewski’s recruitment. While the visit helped them catch up, the feeling is that it wasn’t enough to get them to the top. Williams’ absence from many of Tarczewski’s games seemed to indicate they were a step behind Kansas and Arizona.
“Like Coach Williams, I really love Coach Miller,” said Tarczewski. “He’s a great guy too, and really honest. He told me they really need a big man. It’s a situation I really feel comfortable with.”
While Kansas still feels they have the lead, with each day that goes by without a commitment, the uncertainty grows. Given the effort that Arizona coaches are putting into the recruitment, and the recent track record of Arizona swooping in on Kansas recruits, it’s easy to see why Jayhawk fans are being cautious.
“I’m trying not to think about recruiting too much,” said Tarczewski. “I want to focus on these AAU games. But when it is time, I want to make my decision as soon as possible. I don’t think anything will be final until after July.”
Tarczewski’s coach had a similar view.
“I think he will take time in August to think about it,” said Carroll. “Once things have settled down for him, I think he wants to make a choice before he goes back to school.”
A Kansas insider told us that while there’s no such thing as a lock, Tarczewski was a heavy Kansas lean and it would be “murder-suicide” for Jayhawk fans if Arizona somehow stole him. But the feeling from the Arizona camp is that they have a legitimate chance, perhaps even 50-50, to come away with the five star big man.
Tarczewski is expected to make a decision soon after the AAU season, which for the New England Playaz ends in Los Angeles for the Double Pump Best of Summer tournament. The biggest question is if Tarczewski will wait long enough for Arizona and Sean Miller to steal him away. In the end, the extra exposure may cost Kansas their coveted center, but at this moment it still seems like they hold the lead.