After missing the last five weeks, the Arizona Wildcats are expecting to have senior center Kaleb Tarczewski back on the floor when they open Pac-12 play against the Arizona State Sun Devils on Sunday.
"We anticipate him playing unless something negative would happen between now and Sunday," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said on Friday. "But he's starting to practice some. He's had no pain."
Tarczewski has not been practicing every day, and does not participate fully in each practice, so the number of minutes he'll see is going to be limited, and he'll be coming off the bench. After not practicing on Thursday, Zeus was expected to practice for about 20 minutes of live action on Friday.
"The role he'll have will be very small, and what we hope is that the small role will grow with continued health and as he continues to be part of what we do on a daily basis more often," Miller added.
The team has been without Zeus for more than just these past five weeks though. He was limited during practices leading up to the season with an ankle injury, so some of these guys have barely had a chance to play alongside the senior.
"That's the challenge for our coaching staff and our team," explained Miller. "To be able to implement him in a positive way for both him and our team, and know that we're going to grow and evolve. Our hope is that sometime down the road, whenever that time is, that he'll return to a stronger routine, and he'll return to form."
"If we are able to accomplish that, then whenever that period of time comes, that's when this year's team will be at its best."
"Some of the other guys are not used to playing with Kaleb, so that might have a little bit of an effect on them," Gabe York added. "I feel like Kaleb is one of the best defending bigs in the country, so anytime you get to have someone like him back defending ball screens, defending in the paint, it helps us guards be able to press up on the offensive player because we know we have someone like him to jump a ball screen and know that he's going to have our backs."
"We want him to be back fully, but if he's going to play in spurts, we'll be ready to go for that."
Still expect Dusan Ristic to get the majority of the minutes at center, and Chance Comanche to get some time there as well. Ryan Anderson has also seen time at the five, and that should still be the case at least in these first couple of weeks of Pac-12 play.
"I don't have a minute total because we're not in the game yet, and I think the other part is, in fairness to Kaleb, is to see how he's going to do," Miller said about how many minutes Tarczewski would play Sunday. "It's going to take some time. We're not just going to snap our fingers and let him roll out there and play 30 minutes as if nothing's happened."
On the flip side, Arizona will still be without Elliott Pitts, whose status remains unchanged. He has been out the last five games with what has been termed a "personal issue".
Arizona and ASU are scheduled to tip at Noon MST Sunday on Fox Sports 1.