With Late Night in the Phog on Friday kicking off what should be a memorable KU basketball season, Phog.net introduces you to Tarik Black, the veteran newcomer who transferred from Memphis. Black, who is expected to make a huge impact this year, talks about such topics as Late Night, the great KU tradition, how he loves being at Kansas, and the importance of education in his family.
Black was a big name coming out of Ridgeway High School in Memphis in 2010 as a consensus top-50 recruit. Black wound up choosing to stay in his native city and played for Memphis for three seasons, where he showed flashes of dominance and was once pegged as a future first-round NBA Draft pick.
Black, who graduated from Memphis last May, again was a hot prospect who had some of the nation's best colleges pursuing him when he announced in the spring he'd be transferring.
KU eventually won the grand prize for this bruising, athletic 6-9, 260-pound big man as the Jayhawks just may have secured their starting center for Black's final season of college basketball.
Phog.net takes a closer look at Black and what he brings to Kansas basketball.
BLACK ON LATE NIGHT
"I heard it gets crazy," he said. "I heard it's a packed, crazy event, and people just go nuts for Late Night. I heard people camp out and things like that. It's just special. It's different for me with it being in the fieldhouse, because in Memphis we are used to going downtown to do stuff it wasn't just right there on campus so walking by people on the way to games is something I am going to have to get used to. I'm really expecting a great turnout, the fans getting really into it and the team is going to put on a really great show and show them that, ‘yeah this is going to be a special year.'"
DANCING IN MEMPHIS
Black was part of three NCAA Tournament teams in Memphis who also helped lead the Tigers to two C-USA regular-season titles in 2012 and 2013. Memphis went 16-0 in league play in 2013, while the Tigers won three-straight C-USA Tournament titles (2011-13).
Black posted career averages of 9.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 23 minutes per game while starting 60 of 102 contests. He shot 60 percent from the field during his career, No. 4 on the school's all-time list. He scored 949 career points while leading C-USA in field goal percentage his sophomore season in 2011-12 (68.9) and his junior year (58.9). His 68.9 percent mark also set a single-season school record.
Playing for head coach Josh Pastner, Black's teams went 82-24 and 39-9 in conference play in three seasons. His best year came as a sophomore, when he averaged a career-high 10.7 points while starting 31 of 35 games. Black scored a career-high 26 points with 10 rebounds that season against UTEP on Feb. 28, 2012. Last year, Black's averages dipped to 8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, his lowest of his career, while starting just five of 32 games. However, he did explode for a season-high 21 points against eventual NCAA champion Louisville on Dec. 15, 2012.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT BLACK
Kansas coach Bill Self was thrilled to land the former Memphis player and expects him to make a huge contribution.
"I think Tarik will have a great chance to play as much as he wants," Self said. "He will have a great chance to start. Not very often do you recruit a senior that has already started three years and have him come in and be as well respected and basically be the leader of our big guys already, so I am expecting him to have a big year and he has prepared himself to have a big year because he has worked very, very hard.
"I think Tarik Black may have been the whole steal of any recruiting class in America because here is a guy that is a potential draft pick," Self added. "You get all the maturity and the guy already knows how to work; coming in for one year, he knows it has to be a banner season for him or the transfer wasn't worth it. He's hungry."
Black's teammates are also excited he's at KU.
"He's a big body, strong in practice," sophomore forward Perry Ellis said. "This summer, I got to go against him a lot. It's helping me, it's helping all of us. He's a veteran guy. He even helps me with some things. It's great to have him."
BLACK ON THE JAYHAWKS
Black chose Kansas over Duke, Georgetown, Oregon and Ohio State.
"Kansas is my type of place. I've always liked Kansas' style of the way they function," Black said. "I liked their playing style a lot as well, but it's just who they are as a people – they are so family oriented and humble. They are so together and humble and I really liked it. That's the type of person I am; I really care about others, especially my teammates and the program that I'm in, and I want to win and coach Self obviously has a winning tradition."
Black added "it feels great to be here. It actually is a blessing. I'm very grateful. It's an unbelievable experience if anything to be in a place with such great tradition. Where I'm sitting now (at KU Media Day on James Naismith Court) is the fieldhouse, Allen Fieldhouse. This holds so much tradition and it's much bigger than myself."
Black also loves the quiet atmosphere of Lawrence compared to the big city of Memphis.
"It's actually what I need as a senior with a person who only has one more season," Black said. "Lawrence is the perfect place, a historical program with a great coach, the winningest coach over the last seven, eight, 10 years, and then on top of that, it's a place with not real distractions. I can just wake up every morning and think school, go to school and get grades. Now I'm done with that and get out of study hall, I can focus in on basketball. I can go home and get adequate amount of rest I need.
"I can do what I have to do, whereas in the city (Memphis), there's so much other stuff going on, there's other distractions."
ON WHAT HE'LL MISS ABOUT MEMPHIS
Despite loving Lawrence and KU, it was a very difficult decision for Black to leave Memphis. After all, he grew up in the city and had to say goodbye to his family and others who had meant so much to him.
Black told reporters at Self's camp in June what he'll miss the most.
"I'll miss looking up in the stands before every game, seeing my mom standing there and my brothers and my father and looking up and blowing them kisses, blowing my mother a kiss, my brother giving me a look like, ‘Yeah, little brother, you just did it,'" Black said. "But I'm older now. I'm out here now. I made a decision for myself. It's time for me to finish and accomplish what I set out to do."
BLACK THE TRUE STUDENT-ATHLETE
Black was driven to graduate in just three years at Memphis in organizational leadership. He was named to the Tiger Academic 30 (spring 2013) for having the highest GPA on the team. Black is now enrolled in the master's degree program at Kansas.
Academics has always been stressed in his family.
"I remember an AAU tournament, my mom would drive to the location out of town and actually came to pick me up and said, ‘You have to come home. You have to do your science work,'" Black recalled. "In the middle of the tournament. (Academics has) always been huge to my family. My mom, my dad (believed) education is more important than anything."
BLACK'S CLOSING WORDS ON THE KU FRESHMEN
"They're hungry, they're humble and they're ready to get out there and play some ball," he said.