Black, UI hoops act in good faith
CHAMPAIGN — About a year ago, Leron Black took an unofficial visit to Baylor and committed soon after. It was a rushed decision for the then-high school junior because — get this — he didn’t think anyone else wanted him.
“I didn’t really have a feel for it all,” the 6-foot-7 forward said. “I thought that was going to be my only option.”
It was far from the only major program interested in the services of the 2014 Memphis (Tenn.) White Station star. The phone kept ringing, and the mailbox continued to overflow with letters.
The Illini, who will host Black for an official visit beginning Friday, were among the many suitors for the 215-pounder and have made his final list of four schools, joining Indiana, Baylor and Tennessee.
John Groce and assistant Jamall Walker have made Black a priority target for the 2014 recruiting class. They were regulars at his summer AAU games in which he played for Memphis-based club Team Thad.
“My relationship with Illinois is real good. I talk to Coach Walker and Coach Groce a lot. We’re real close. I can talk with them about a lot of different things; anything, really,” Black said. “We’re constantly talking on the phone. Coach Walker is real cool; we talk about a lot of things. I like Coach Groce’s excitement and how fired up he is about me coming on a visit.”
Black maintains an Instagram account (leron_black), but the Bible commands the bulk of his attention.
“With my faith, I want to be somewhere I can be around the coach who believes in faith like me and doesn’t have a problem with me reading my Bible. I want to be able to go to church,” Black said. “Coach Groce sends me a Bible verse every morning. That’s something that’s real important to me, my faith.”
Black is a power forward who might be able to make the transition to playing the 3 spot.
“I’m just a player; it doesn’t matter what position I play,” he said.
He’s rated by Rivals.com as a five-star recruit and 22nd in the country in his class. ESPN (36th) and Scout.com (46th) list him as a four-star.
Black eliminated Memphis from his list earlier this month.
“I just told them I wanted to leave the city. It’s a great school and a great place, but I feel like I need to get away and grow as a person,” he said.
Florida, Missouri and Georgia Tech received unofficial visits but have been eliminated from consideration.
“I want to be somewhere with good academics. From a basketball standpoint, I want to be at a school where I fit in well and be able to play well,” he said. “I want to be somewhere where they can get up and down the court and somewhere I can see myself being for the next four years.”
On his Instagram page, Black says he hears regularly from fans urging him to pick their school, including Illinois followers. The attention and the recruiting process have been fun.
“It feels real good to know that people really care and want you to be where they are and know that you’re going to have a lot of support,” Black said. “It’s cool.”