There are few more spectacular sights on a basketball court than a powerful center rising high to detonate an alley-oop slam dunk and there are few better practitioners of that particular art than Kaleb Tarczewski of AX Armani Exchange Milan. The man they call Tarzan, who signed a three-year contract extension with Milan this summer, has established himself as one of the most explosive big men in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague during his three seasons in the competition. His powerful presence inside the paint is chiefly manifested in three ways: his outstanding rebounding ability, which has seen him snare an average of 5.4 boards per game during his 82 EuroLeague appearances; a regular supply of emphatically blocked shots (he averages 0.8 rejections per game); and, yes, those highlight reel alley-oops.
Tarczewski boasts a combination of formidable size, great timing, ferocious athleticism and sheer determination to score most spectacularly. Since he debuted in the EuroLeague in 2017, Tarczewski ranks third in the competition in shooting at 67.0%. The vast majority of his 217 baskets have come via assists with many of those of the alley-oop variety. He became a favorite partner of Mike James in 2018-19, with Tarczewski’s picks at the top of the key leaving opposing teams in a Catch-22; do they give James – that season’s Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner – the space to shoot from the perimeter or do they clamp down on the guard knowing that they could be giving Tarczewski a path to roll to the basket where a perfectly placed lob could be waiting for him to jam in. A year later, Milan made a backcourt change and brought in Sergio Rodriguez, who is no less a master of the pick-and-roll game and Tarczewski thrived accordingly with a career-best 8.1 points per game.
The Rodriguez-to-Tarczewski combination is fast becoming one of the staples of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and it might only get better this season. Tarczewski will have not only have Rodriguez, but the signing of Malcolm Delaney gives him another player well-versed in teeing big men up for explosive dunks, so the sight of Tarzan flying through the sky and swinging on the rim will surely continue to be a regular occurrence in the fashion capital in 2020-21.