Tarik Black Breaks Through For KansasPosted by Brian Goodman on December 23rd, 2013
When Tarik Black transferred to Kansas back in May, the perception was that the former Memphis Tiger would contribute experience, stability, and strength down low while the Jayhawks developed Perry Ellis into a consistent threat and showed Joel Embiid what it took to succeed at the college level. Kansas needed to rebuild its frontcourt after Jeff Withey and Kevin Young graduated, and Black was going to be relied upon to do for Bill Self what several players have done for coaches looking to the NCAA’s post-graduate transfer rule for help with roster turnover: provide a leg up and buy the staff time to develop its younger pieces. Then the season started, but a weird thing happened. Black sat and sat and sat.
Unable to stay out of foul trouble, Black played just six minutes against Duke in Kansas’ biggest game of their non-conference slate. He played eight minutes in the team’s first loss, a 63-59 defeat at the hands of Villanova. He committed at least three fouls in six of his first seven games and seven of his first eight as a Jayhawk. Even when given extended minutes, he struggled to stay productive, missing close looks, while Embiid showed such accelerated development that he earned Black’s spot in the starting lineup. As a point of reference, when Embiid started playing organized basketball three years ago, Black was beginning his collegiate career after committing to Memphis as a highly-touted prospect.
But Saturday afternoon against the Hoyas, Black finally emerged in a Kansas uniform, scoring 17 points to go along with six rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes as Kansas rolled Georgetown 86-64 in front of a soldout Allen Fieldhouse that hadn’t hosted the Jayhawks in 29 days. “I knew coming here that it wasn’t going to be perfect,” Black said after the win. “I’m new here. I played in college for a while, but I had to learn the system [at Kansas].”
Black added that while he lost his starting spot, the confidence that the Kansas staff had in him never wavered. “I have a great coaching staff that told me to keep my head up and keep on working,” he said. It also helped that Black’s parents, Judith and Lawrence, were in town Saturday afternoon. Black’s production in the second half was especially welcome, as Ellis was sidelined early in the second half after a hit to the neck by Georgetown forward Nate Lubick that left Ellis so woozy that he bricked the ensuing free throw high off the left side of the backboard.
The depth chart has shuffled to the point where Black is now Kansas’ third big man after Ellis and Embiid, though for his part, Black hasn’t expressed any frustration over the shift. As strange as it may have seemed back in November, there could now be a logjam up front, a classic good problem to have. The question now becomes whether Black’s performance Saturday was legit or whether it was just a blip made possible by Georgetown’s undisciplined bigs (Joshua Smith, Moses Ayegba and Nate Lubick all fouled out, and Mikael Hopkins racked up four fouls of his own).
If Black can continue to give the Jayhawks quality minutes, even if they aren’t quite of the caliber he showed over the weekend, Kansas will again be spoiled by a deep and talented frontcourt rotation mere weeks after it didn’t know if that crew would be up to par with last season’s group. With two weeks still to go until the start of conference play, that could spell trouble for the rest of the Big 12.