With the college basketball season in full swing, it’s becoming easier to begin deducing which freshmen will have an impact in their very first campaign. Answers to such questions as, “Can he become familiar with the offensive and defensive schemes quickly?” and “Does he fit his team’s need?” will begin materializing.
Any college basketball fan – even a conference enthusiast – would admit that the last few seasons have been less-than-stellar in the Pac-12. Teams have underperformed, and the conference has only snatched a total of eight NCAA tournament bids since 2009. Less than a year ago, things looked pretty grim.
But, with this year’s freshmen class, there’s serious reason for many Pac-12 fanatics to be hopeful.
As a conference, the Pac-12 – particularly UCLA and Arizona – did a much better job of recruiting heading into this season compared to the last few years. While there are a handful of Pac-12 studs that have the potential to take the country by storm in their freshmen campaigns, two players stand out amongst the rest: Shabazz Muhammad, a 6-foot-6 guard at UCLA, and Kaleb Tarczewski, a 7-foot center at the University of Arizona.
Both players will look to play a vital role in helping turn their school’s respective programs around this season.
Muhammad is hoping to help bring UCLA back to the forefront of college basketball (Credit: Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)
The past few months have been anything but tranquil for UCLA’s new star, as Muhammad faced an NCAA investigation, worked through an ankle and shoulder injury, and missed practices and games with his new team. More recently, however, Muhammad’s fortune has taken a turn for the better, as he has been determined eligible, recovered well from his injuries, and is on the court with his fellow Bruins.
Muhammad, who played his high school ball at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, where he averaged over 29 points (the highest amongst all high school seniors) and 10 rebounds per game in his final year, is incredibly athletic, can knock down a jump shot, and is fluid around the rim.
Where Muhammad will certainly prove to be advantageous to the Bruins is on the defensive end – an area in which UCLA could use some improvement. He moves well laterally, plays help defense without sacrificing his assignment completely, and has the potential to be as good of an on-ball defender as anyone in the Pac-12.
Muhammad will look to add to an impressive resume in his first year at UCLA – he was named 2012 Naismith Boy’s High School Player of the Year and MVP of the 2012 McDonald’s All-American Game, and had a record-setting performance with 35 points for USA Basketball in the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit.
Through the Bruins first seven games, Muhammad is averaging 16 points and six rebounds per contest.
Wildcat fans, and NBA scouts will both be looking at what Tarczewski brings to the table this season (Credit: Arizona Athletics Photography)
It’s not everyday that a player receives an offer from Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Arizona – reportedly, Tarczewski did. With tremendous size, noticeably growing strength, good mobility, and brilliant hands and spring, Tarczewski appears to be a player that will not only experience success in college, but also has NBA-type talent.
The traditional back-to-the-basket center led Saint Mark’s High School in Massachusetts to a 28-2 record, shooting 63 percent from the field and averaging nearly 21 points, over 10 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game during his senior season.
Nothing Tarczewski does is especially glitzy, but his game, on both ends of the floor, is quite a sight to see. Whether he is ripping down a rebound, cleaning up a missed shot with a powerful two-handed throw down, dropping in one of his jump-hooks, or protecting the rim from would be layups, Tarczewski does a lot to help his team win.
The Wildcats’ center will have many NBA scouts eyeing him throughout the year, but it is the Arizona faithful that are hoping for big (no pun intended) things from one of the top prospects in the country.
Through the first four games of the season, Tarczewski is shooting 50 percent from the field, and is averaging over six points and over five rebounds per game.
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