After graduating from Memphis in three years, Tarik Black could have chosen anywhere to continue his college basketball career. Many school's coveted the power forward, a free agent acquisition similar to what you'd find in the NBA.
"Hey, stud," Self simply said to Black.
With that and the ensuing conversation, it was clear that Black would choose the Jayhawks and the partnership has worked harmoniously. On Wednesday night, Black celebrated his senior night after a brief one year stay, but his impact has been great and will serve Kansas well going forward. To punctuate it, he turned in a 19 point, six rebound performance, as the Jayhawks whipped Texas Tech 82-57 at Allen Fieldhouse.
The night was a coronation, as Kansas (23-7, 14-3) officially celebrated its mind boggling 10th consecutive Big 12 championship before it's loyal fans and for Black, it was a chance to revel in an environment that has been so very good to him.
"I just can't believe it is over; not the season but the regular season games. I have played four seasons and it has been a long road leading up to this point, but now it is here," Black said. "I can't come back and do boot camp. I can't come back and win conference again. I can't come back and play those big-time, non-conference games. It hasn't hit me as much as it will in the near future, but it is just puzzling to me right now because it seems like just yesterday I was beginning my college career."
Starting because of Senior Night, but also because of the absence of freshman center Joel Embiid, who will miss the remainder of the regular season with a back injury, Black wasn't to be denied as he overwhelmed upstart Texas Tech (13-17, 5-12). His hustle and offense helped Kansas to a 20-point halftime lead and it wasn't close from there, as the Jayhawks enjoyed a season's worth of work with and ode to the most critical time of the year.
"There were a lot of good things that happened tonight, but more importantly than anything else, the love affair between our fans and our players," head coach Bill Self said. "That was so evident with everybody sticking around to hear these guys talk afterwards. It's always a special night on senior night but it's a night these cats will remember for the rest of their lives."
The night also proved to be a chance for the fans to celebrate and bid farewell to freshman Andrew Wiggins, who will be headed to the NBA following the conclusion of the season. The nature of the game didn't provide much opportunity to play, as he only logged 23 minutes and nine points, but it was still a chance to take it all in.
"I think it is all bundled up right now," Wiggins said. "I am happy, yet sad it is my last game. I have enjoyed my time here. I am thankful for everything. I have been blessed with a good team, great coaches and the best fans anyone could ever ask for."
Now, Kansas heads to West Virginia to wrap up the regular season and then move on next weeks' Big 12 Championship in Kansas City and the name of the game is overall team improvement, as Kansas looks to play their best basketball of the season, which could eventually end up with the Jayhawks claiming the last number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. For now though, there's a little bit of reflection to be done, with the idea that Kansas has everything it takes to turn a great season into a special one.