SALT LAKE CITY — One of the places to see Arizona Wildcats center Kaleb Tarczewski this season, outside of campus, has been at Rosa’s Mexican Food. With his mom.
That’s been one of their favorite spots near UA, to talk, for mom to help him step away from the pressures of big-time basketball, for him to be as normal as a 7-foot human can be.
And, besides …
“They don’t really have much good Mexican food up in New Hampshire,” he said with a smile.
Tarczewski and his mom, Bonnie Wyand, have gotten comfortable in Tucson. She decided to rent out her home in Charlestown, N.H., last fall and move to Tucson for the season, renting a guest house along River Road.
“It was really big,” he said of his mom’s decision.
“It’s great to have her here. She’s a great woman. She helps in any way that I need it. After the game, it’s nice to have someone to talk to. Even if you need your laundry done and you don’t have time because you’re going from practice to class and all that, it’s really nice to be able to have someone there who can help you through all that.
“Sometimes, you just need to talk about something that’s not going well. You can just call up your mom and say, ‘You want to go get some dinner?’ It’s really nice.”
Bonnie politely declined to talk about this story, saying she doesn’t like to do interviews.
She has watched this season as her son, a true low post player, has started every game, averaging 6.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. At 255 pounds, he doesn’t have trouble running the court and he’s made steady improvement, pushing his averages to 7.6 points and 7.0 rebounds in the past 10 games.
Tarczewski, coming off a 13-rebound effort against UCLA last week, gets his first taste of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday when sixth-seeded Arizona takes on 11th-seeded Belmont in Salt Lake City.
If it’s tantalizing for us to think what somebody with that kind of body and emerging skill will be able to do in a couple of years, of what kind of NBA riches await, imagine what visions dance inside his head.
That’s where Bonnie comes in. Credit her with an assist.
“He’s a young, emotional guy and he wants to be a great player so badly that he can let the frustration of a long season affect his daily performance,” said Arizona assistant James Whitford.
“Kaleb puts a lot of pressure on himself to do well. It’s hard for him to let it go. I think his mom really helps with that. The great thing about Bonnie is she can very much separate Kaleb’s game from Kaleb the person. She has the same look on her face if he gets a double-double or if Kaleb scores two points.
“I think that’s really good for him to see. I give Bonnie tremendous credit. She’s got a great positive spirit, and she does under all circumstances.”
While Tarczewski lived away from home for a few years, attending St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass, he was still only about a couple of hours away from his parents; his dad, Erick Tarczewski lives in Claremont, N.H.
Bonnie — who had been working in day care, Kaleb said — decided last fall that her son didn’t have to be so far away from home alone. The UA’s three other freshmen — Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Gabe York — are all California kids, just a short plane ride away.
Tarczewski rooms on campus with York in Likins Hall, with Ashley and Jerrett across the hall.
“The fact that he was going to move all the way across the country, that would hurt,” Ashley said. “It’s the little things you really miss when you’re away from your family — just seeing them every day.”
Tarczewski hasn’t had to miss those things. And he might not next season, too.
The plan is for Bonnie to return to New Hampshire this summer but she might come back to Tucson for a second season of Arizona basketball with her son.
“She loves watching us play and she loves the team, but she doesn’t really understand basketball too much,” Tarczewski said.
“It’s not really about basketball. She is the person who gets stressed if I’m not doing well in school. If it’s school, that’s when she starts to get on me. She’s a great mom. It’s been a blessing this year.”