by Sean Collins, UA Communication Services
The men’s basketball team at the University of Arizona opened the New Year as the No. 1 team in the country and is full of potential professional players. Many universities say they have the best fans in the country but here at Arizona, they can certainly make a strong case for having just that. Despite all of the highly heralded student-athletes on the team, the one who might be the most adored by the fans is none other than junior Matt Korcheck.
Korcheck, the Tucson native and graduate of Sabino High School, draws the most attention from the fans sitting near the court and those passing by during warmups. People yell his name to just say hello, one man simply hollered, “Hey Tucson boy, good luck!” Korcheck never fails to acknowledge his fans, smiling back and waving to each one. For Korcheck, he is quite literally, living the dream.
“Coming up around here, you know I was here in high school,” Korcheck said. It is a dream come true for me. Playing basketball in Tucson before this, it’s definitely something you never think is going to happen but if the opportunity presented itself, I always knew I would go here.”
Before his arrival at Arizona, Korcheck attended Cochise Community College in Douglas, Ariz. He averaged 14.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in 2011-12, leading the Apaches to a 25-6 record and the ACCAC championship. Korcheck shot 57.8 percent (182-315) from the field en route to second-team all-conference and all-region honors, drawing the attention of head coach Sean Miller.
“We won our region championship but lost in the first round of the national tournament,” Korcheck said. “But, winning the region was a big deal.”
Korcheck then enrolled at Arizona and it did not take long for him to realize he was playing with some of the best collegiate players in the country.
“Our first open gym, I walked in and was like, ‘wow,’” Korcheck said. “This is pretty cool, Solomon Hill was there, Kevin Parrom was there. You know, I was just watching these guys play when I was in high school so at that moment I felt like more of a fan than a member of the team.”
Korcheck redshirted the 2012-13 season, something was most players nowadays do not elect to do. But it was his decision and looking back on it, he still feels like it was the right one.
“Redshirting was definitely worth it,” Korcheck said. “Taking that year off to really get comfortable socially, mentally and physically and being around this level of the game definitely helped a lot.”
For a full year, Korcheck showed up to practice every single day, working against the likes of then-freshmen Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski and former Wildcat Grant Jerrett, who is now playing professionally. Practicing with no game in sight is not easy, but Korcheck honored the process and took it one day at a time.
“It’s tough, it’s definitely challenging,” Korcheck said. “There are days you come in and your body is beat up and you just feel like you don’t really want to be there. But I’m able to find that motivation and just keep working hard.”
Korcheck feels that it is a two-way street. Not only do his teammates help him get better, but he does the same for them.
“They definitely help me get better,” Korcheck said. “I certainly hope I help them improve. With my effort and hard work I hope I can keep them on their toes a little bit in practice. I just want them to get better as they move forward with their careers.”
Korcheck has not dealt with many losses as a Wildcat thus far. Last year, Korcheck was part of a Sweet 16 run and this year, the team started the season undefeated. Korcheck knows quickly the team can lose their No. 1 ranking, but he is certainly enjoying the process.
“I felt that when I came here we were going to be a good team, but you never really know,” Korcheck said. Being No. 1 definitely feels good. I would never say I get used to winning, we do have to work really hard for the success that we have. I think it is something you earn and it’s very easy to fall off the top if you don’t earn it and work for it every day.”
Over the years, Korcheck is one of a very select group to be from Tucson and play for the men’s basketball team. Most kids in Tucson do indeed imagine themselves playing in an Arizona jersey one day. Korcheck has made his dream a reality and is loving every minute of it.
“It’s great, every day is something new,” Korcheck said. “It’s just so much fun and is truly indescribable if you’re not a part of it. Doing all the traveling and the seeing all the cool things I’ve been able to see this year has been really awesome.”