UNC MBB Player Preview: Leaky Black

By Blair Tuggle @BlairTuggle

Leaky Black
6ft 9 – 205lbs

Concord, NC
Major: Exercise and Sport Science in Sports Administration Program

Following Armando Bacot, the second of the three to announce their much-awaited return for the 2022-23 season provided the catalyst that Tar Heel fans needed to bring up flashbacks from the ‘15-’16 to ‘16-’17 season turnaround (one can only hope!).

Leaky Black is a crucial defensive force to be reckoned with, with his skills shining through late into the 2021-22 season. A 94-81 win against Duke to cap off the regular season was when Leaky coined the nickname “Lockdown Leaky”, shutting down star players game after game as the Heels made their way to New Orleans. Leaky Black is on target to break the record of games played as a Tar Heel this season too.

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Leaky Black’s Numbers as a Tar Heel:

Statistics up to date as of 14th Sep (source: basketball.real.gm)

Leaky Black’s Best Game as a Tar Heel:

Black had an explosive senior season that was truly the backbone of the Carolina backcourt. Over the course of his four-year career as a Tar Heel, Leaky seemed to find his groove in the final months of the season as a successful post-season was on the line. The season seemed to taper off and after the first matchup against Duke on February 5th in the Smith Center, hopes for a complete season turnaround were slim to none: it just seemed impossible.

Fast forward to what seemed like it would be the final matchup between the Tar Heels and Coach K’s Blue Devils. The stage that was set in Cameron for the March 5th matchup was fit for a farewell tour―and came complete with an environment ready for a repeat blowout loss due to holes in the defensive game plan.  One such Duke player that was able to slip through those holes and go 11 for 17 with 27 points was A.J. Griffin.

So, what changed within that month span between games? Leaky Black. Rather than focusing on how to attack Banchero and Griffin while rotating through the starting lineup, Davis tasked Leaky with the most important job of the night. As one of Duke’s prominent offensive powers, Leaky was able to hold A.J. Griffin to five points, going 2-5 from the field, with no points in the second half. The rest of the starting five for Carolina was able to put up over 20 points a piece in the 94-81 win that night compared to only one of Duke’s: Banchero with 23. Leaky Black’s ability to own the backcourt and send Coach K off with a loss on his home court helped UNC’s seeding in the ACC Tournament and boosted their resume as they left the regular season. Acceptable.

Leaky Black’s Player Comparison:

The turning point for the Tar Heels season defensively was found in Leaky Black, but the turning point for Leaky’s season was found in former Tar Heel wing, Jackie Manuel.

Manuel was a captain on the 2005 National Championship team who was known for his lockdown defense, earning All-ACC Defensive team honors in both his junior and senior years. Sound familiar? “Lockdown” Leaky Black achieved the same feat after his defense gained national attention during his senior 2021-22 season. Another shared trait between Black and Manuel is being among just a league of six Tar Heels (Danny Green, James Worthy, David Noel, and George Lynch) to record 500 points, 400 rebounds, 200 assists, 100 steals and 50 blocked shots during their career at UNC.

However, their similar position, size, awards, and statistics aren’t what sparked their close relationship.

Manuel joined the Carolina Basketball staff with Coach Hubert Davis as director of team and player development. The characteristics shared above drew Manuel to reach out to Leaky to form a bond that could have been crafted on statistics alone, however, their conversations brought upon a deeper, heavier topic: anxiety. Jackie Manuel provided Leaky with a safe space to unload about all of the highs and lows faced as a collegiate basketball player, something Black had never been able to do. The 2019-2020 season (dare we reminisce on that 9-14 season) seemed to escalate his battle with anxiety when Black became a regular in the lineup due to a lack of depth on the team coupled with injuries, even while recovering from an injury of his own. 

Jackie Manuel had faced similar struggles of his own. Having the same defensive role as Leaky, Jackie was under the same pressure to balance out his offensive powerhouse teammates on a National Championship team his senior year―woah

Through Manuel, Black was able to seek help for his basketball-related anxiety and even made his struggle public. With Manuel as his advisor, Leaky was able to revisit his roots of why he fell in love with the game in the first place, and his statistics soon began to mirror that:

Statistics up to date as of 14th Sep (source: Sports Reference)

Leaky Black’s Future:

At 6’9 with a 6’11 wingspan, Leaky Black could fit in the role of a perimeter defender in the league. Black’s defensive capabilities were well demonstrated in the latter part of the 2021-22 season, being able to shut down and force opposing key shooters into recording season-lows. If this past season was a glimpse of what Leaky Black has in store for his fifth year, I believe that Black could be what this offensively-stacked Tar Heel team needs to dominate on both ends of the court. With an ACC DPOY award under his belt, I believe that Black could wedge his way into a post-collegiate basketball career.

Leaky Black has played 122 games for the Tar Heels, 30 games away from Deon Thompson’s 152 record. Let’s hope with a late March run, we can see Leaky become the all-time leader in games played.

Blue/White Scrimmage:

Black did not play in the Blue/White scrimmage for undisclosed reasons but based on his defensive capabilities put on display this past year, we can expect a lot from Black this upcoming season.

Who is excited to see Leaky Black put on the Tar Heel jersey for another season?

Follow Blair Tuggle on Twitter @BlairTuggle and keep up-to date with her throughout the 2021-22 basketball season reporting on all things UNC Basketball.

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