Junior point guard Darren Black knows how important his scoring will be to this year's Concord basketball team.
Black's main job has been to be a true point guard - distribute the ball and only take easy shots - during his first two seasons with the Spiders, deferring to now-departed players like Jalen Cannady, Jaquise Moore and Griffin Templeton as well as current teammate Kendall Knorr, a senior guard.
But having lost four seniors from last year's 25-4 squad that reached the 4A West Regional finals, Black returns as one of the most experienced players for Concord (2-0) and will be counted on to help carry the team's scoring load.
"I have to step up," said Black.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
The junior uses his speed and aggressiveness to get the Concord up-tempo offense going. Aside from having the ability to put his teammates in good scoring position, he can rely on his in-and-out crossover to get past defenders on the way to the basket or to get enough separation to pull up for a mid-range jump shot.
In the Spiders' season-opener against East Rowan, Black, who averaged 12 points per game last year, showed he canscore at a high level. He led the team with 23 points. He followed that up by scoring 18 as his team defeated favored 4A power Mount Tabor 75-70 in Winston-Salem.
Concord coach Scott Brewer said Black's athleticism is "unbelievable," as the 5-foot-11 guard has already had several dunks and even takes opening tip-offs for the Spiders.
But Brewer says Black's experience may be his biggest asset.
"It's not too many times as a high school coach that you get guards with as much experience as Darren," said Brewer.
Black said he's had to become a leader for the Spiders, wanting to be a role model by setting an example on the court and showing the younger players the ropes.
"I have to keep my teammates focused," said Black. "If we're down (in a game), I have to keep their mindset right."
Black said he worked on his strength during the offseason, lifting weights and running hills wearing a weighted vest to fill in his frame. He said that's paying off.
"Last year, I used to get pushed around a lot," said Black, who weighs 160 pounds, nearly 35 pounds more than he did his freshman season. "This year, I feel like I'm stronger than most of the people we play and I can post some of those players up."
Black will have a lot of help from Knorr, who committed to Navy after averaging 14 points per game last season, as well from sophomore shooter Connor Burchfield in the backcourt.
Brewer said his "Big Three" have the talent to lead the team. With Knorr and Black having played on varsity since they were freshmen, playing in the 3A championship game for the state runner-up Spiders in 2010 and having only lost one home game since being on the team, the coach knows he can trust them.
"They kind of know what we're going to do on the court," said Brewer. "They know how I think. ... We're on the same page and we're fortunate to have that."
There are some questions in the Spiders' front court. Starting forward Jerry Burk tore his MCL against Northwest Cabarrus in the first round of the football playoffs, and back-up Tomeko Williams fractured his fifth metatarsal soon after.
Both will be out for the first part of the season.
Junior B.J. Beecher has been thrust into the starting role and has contributed with his strength and agility around the basket, Brewer said.
Reid Aube, the junior varsity team's most valuable player last year, should also contribute in the post, while Graham Pruette and Quran Lee also move up to the varsity squad.
Despite some of the inexperience, expectations surrounding Concord basketball are high. The six-time defending South Piedmont Conference champs want to prove that they can still compete with the best in the state.
"People don't think we're going to be that good having lost a few players from last year," said Black. "Every game we play, we have to give everybody our best shot to try to prove them wrong."
As Black looks to break the 1,000th point mark this season, he hopes to continue to impress college scouts. Having played for former North Carolina point guard and NBA player Jeff McInnis' Team Charlotte under-16 AAU squad in the summer, Black says Wake Forest and South Carolina have been recruiting him heavily.
Right now, he's focused on helping Concord play at a high level.
"We're just young and have a long way to go," Black said. "But our time will come."