What is Kansas actually getting in Tarik Black?
Likely still reveling in the aftermath of Andrew Wiggins’ commitment, Kansas added another potentially impactful piece Monday in Memphis transfer big man Tarik Black. Black, a graduate transfer who has one season left and is eligible immediately, will be expected to provide experience, rebounding and shot-blocking for a young-but-suddenly-really-talented Jayhawks team.
In theory, it sounds like an excellent fit. Kansas is returning Perry Ellis at power forward and has blossoming freshman seven-footer Joel Embiid coming in, as well as other frontcourt options like sophomore Jamari Traylor and redshirt freshman Landen Lucas. Still, Black has more college playing experience than that entire quartet combined. He was a very solid rebounder on the offensive end for Memphis all three seasons he was there, and was much improved last season on the defensive glass. Black’s shotblocking was considerably less pronounced last year, but he has a solid track record in that area over his career, as well. In sum, he should be able to help this particular Kansas team in those areas, and shouldn’t have to be asked to do more than what he is fully capable of doing.
At the same time, Black, a highly regarded prospect coming out of high school, never really came close to living up to that reputation at Memphis. He struggled with consistency and intensity, and his similarity scores from this past season (per KenPom.com) relate him to such luminaries as Alex Franklin, Aaron Pogue and Jonathan Kale. Those are mostly nondescript big men from Siena, Cleveland State and Providence, if you were curious. Black’s minutes were cut pretty significantly from his sophomore to junior year as almost every stat category dropped off alarmingly. He only started five of Memphis’ 32 games last season after being a starter for much of his first two seasons. It’s not anywhere close to the projected curve you’d expect from a third-year big man who had ramped up nicely as a sophomore.
Maybe this will be one of those cases where a kid needs a change of scenery, especially when he’s been in the crucible of his hometown team. And Kansas has had a solid recent development record with project big men, so this is a decent landing spot. And maybe Black will find some urgency now that he’s down to his senior season and got to pick where he was going to play it. Kansas doesn’t need Black to be a star (like Memphis may have). If the Jayhawks simply get anything close to sophomore-year Black, they have landed another crucial piece to a potential Final Four puzzle.