Black Focused on a Few

Leron Black spent most of the spring nursing an ankle injury, but he got back on the court this weekend and showed flashes of why he's such a highly regarded prospect.

One of the top prospects for Illinois in 2014 is Memphis, TN power forward Leron Black. Black, who got back on the floor for the first time this spring this weekend at the Hensley Memorial Run N' Slam in Fort Wayne, Indiana, admitted that the injury set him back a bit.

"I still have a lot of work to do," he said. "I'm still trying to get my feel for the game again, but I need to keep running hard to get myself back in shape."

As is the case with a lot of athletes who suffer injuries, especially to their lower body, Black fell behind in his cardio and conditioning.

"The biggest things are probably getting back in shape and getting my feel," Black said. "I haven't really been doing anything during the injury except lifting, so I need to get my shot back and my handle right."

Despite some lingering effects of the injury, Black played through the pain for the first half of the weekend, and faced an especially tall task (both figuratively and literally) against the Spiece Indy Heat 17U team in a matchup Saturday afternoon. Even with the skill of guys like Trey Lyles, Black knew he had an advantage and sought to exploit it.

"I just had to go for it and run those guys," he said. "They were all big and slow, so I had to get out and run them and wear them out. I like to run, that's what I do."

But at 6'7" tall with a big frame and good build, Black isn't just a big body that fights in the paint. He also possesses ball handling skills and has a consistent mid-range jump shot. It's that versatility that makes him a matchup nightmare for opponents and allows him to take advantage of the matchups he gets.

"I feel like I'm a mismatch problem," Black said. "When I have someone small on me, I can take them in the post, and when I have someone big on me, I can take it out on them and come out and shoot."

He continued, "I'm always thinking about that when I'm out there. I just tell myself to come out and either take a guy off the dribble and shoot, or get the ball to one of my teammates."

Of course, Black knows he can't do it on his own. He has one of the hottest point guards this spring in Chris Chiozza to help alleviate the pressure on him and set him up to get good looks.

"Oh it's a huge help (having Chris)," he said. "They know they can't sag off of him because he can make shots, and when they double him, I might be open. Plus Riley Norris can hit shots too. We just make everything go."

Black, who listed Illinois, UConn, Florida, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Ohio State, Baylor, and NC State as schools that are recruiting him the hardest right now, isn't likely to narrow it down in the immediate future, but likely will start looking over the summer.

The one time Baylor commitment says he's still hearing from the Bears.

"They're still recruiting me," he said. "I still love the coaching staff over there and they still want me to come to Baylor."

Black's first priority when he looks at a school isn't something that happens on the court or in the practice facility. It's something that happens everywhere. Of course he does admit, he's looking for an uptempo style that fits his current game.

"I'm big on my religion and on my Christianity," he said, "and I want to go somewhere that I can spread my word and be somewhere that the coaches support that and believe in that. On the court, I want to play my style of play where we run and get up and down the floor."

At Illinois, Black has an especially strong relationship with the coaching staff.

"Coach Walker and I are real close. I love Coach Walker," he said, "and Coach Groce too. That's my guy."

While he's focused on his spring and his recovery, Black doesn't plan on taking any visits any time soon. It seems likely that Black's next few visits could be his five official visits sometime later this year.

"I'll probably wait to take some visits until the fall," Black said. "I'll probably visit Illinois then. Other than Illinois, I don't know where else I'm going to visit yet."

Black sees a lot in Illinois that he likes, not only the people, but the style of play as well.

"I really like the coaching staff," he said. "I watched them play this year, and they get up and down the floor, and I like what they have going on over there."


Illini Inquirer Top Stories