When he committed to play college basketball for North Carolina and Tar Heels coach Roy Williams as a high school sophomore, Rechon “Leaky” Black said his life - and his name - changed.
He was no longer just Leaky. Everywhere he went or read about himself, he was now “UNC recruit Leaky Black.”
And there are many expectations that come with that, he said.
“It’s like my family’s expecting me to do good, and the UNC fan base, too,” he said. “There are Tar Heels throughout every gym everywhere, and I wanted to let them know I was pretty good. So there was a lot of pressure.”
Black, a UNC freshman, spoke to the Observer before he left for school. Once freshman move onto campus, UNC doesn’t allow them to speak to outside media until after they play their first game.
But the early reports of Black’s progress with the Tar Heels has been positive. He’s part of the Tar Heels’ best recruiting class in years: Potential NBA lottery pick Nassir Little and N.C. native Coby White were national top 25 recruits and McDonald’s All-Americans. Black, who is 6-foot-7 and can play four positions, was a top 100 recruit.
“Leaky is maybe as versatile after six or seven practices as anybody I’ve ever had,” Williams said this week.
Tar Heels sophomore guard Andrew Platek has also been impressed.
“Leaky’s kind of a Swiss Army knife, kind of a jack of all trades, do it all kind of player. He’s long, gets in the passing lanes, deflections, rebounds, whatever you need, he’ll be the guy.”
Black is also healthy after suffering through a groin injury that hampered him for about half of his senior year of high school. Paired with 2019 Duke recruit Wendell Moore, Black helped lead Concord’s Cox Mill High School to a second straight N.C. 3A state championship last March.
“It started bothering him (right before the season), but he never told anybody,” Cox Mill coach Jody Barbee said. “I started noticing him rubbing it after the (Christmas) break and I sent him to the trainer. He had a partial tear and it was January before we knew anything. We would’ve shut him down earlier in the year.”
Black still had a solid senior season, averaging 14 points, five assists, two blocks. Barbee said he also dealt with fans who wanted “UNC recruit Leaky Black” to play like a world-beater every night, only an injured Leaky Black couldn’t always do that.
Sometimes, Black dealt with as many hecklers as he did Tar Heel fans during games.
“Man, I hear that stuff,” Black said. “Honestly, I like it. It motivates me at the end of the day. Either you take it and go in the corner and cry about it, and make them feel like they’re right, or you get in the gym, work and don’t pay it any attention.
“Everybody’s got their opinion. It goes in one ear and out the other.”
His high school coach heard it all, too.
“I read all the Twitter lines and I heard all the talk, folks saying, ‘He’s not that good, and he will struggle at Carolina,’” Barbee said. “That’s fine. Adds fuel to the fire. Leaky is out to prove he can play at that level. You saw him at 65-70 percent (as a high school senior). Wait ‘til you see what you get when he’s 100 percent and has his shot going.”
Black spoke to the Tar Heels’ official web site this week and said his first month of school has been tough.
“It’s been a grind,” he told GoHeels.com. “It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve gone through in my life. It’s eye-opening, it’s humbling and it reminds me I have a lot of work left to do.”
But before he left home for Chapel Hill, that’s exactly what Black said he was expecting. He talked about staying in the gym as much as he could, trying to improve his jump shot, an admitted weakness in his game.
He talked about what he wanted to do in Chapel Hill, including his deep belief that the Tar Heels’ freshman class can lead a run to another national championship.
And he talked about knowing things would be difficult, but how this is what he’s looked forward to since committing to Williams two years ago.
“I’m going to give everything,” he said. “I’m going to stay in the gym, get my shot right, push my game and play with confidence. Then it’s taking pride in defense, blocking shots. Bringing the ball up court. I’m looking forward to all of it. Man, I can’t wait.”
Raleigh News & Observer reporter Jonas Pope IV contributed.