High School Sports

To become ‘fan favorite’ at UNC, ex-Concord High star sacrifices game, family to play at Florida power

North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams (left) chats with recruit Rechon “Leaky” Black before a Tar Heels football game at Kenan Stadium in September. Black committed to North Carolina in January 2016.
North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams (left) chats with recruit Rechon “Leaky” Black before a Tar Heels football game at Kenan Stadium in September. Black committed to North Carolina in January 2016. rwillett@newsobserver.com

A year ago, when he was a sophomore at Concord High, Rechon “Leaky” Black accepted a college basketball scholarship offer from North Carolina coach Roy Williams.

“It was like a dream come true,” Black said then.

To better prepare for what he hopes is a starring role North Carolina, Black, a 6-foot-7 junior point guard, chose to leave Concord and his friends and teammates to enroll at Montverde Academy, a private school of about 1,100 students outside Orlando, Fla.

Montverde’s basketball team is coached by Kevin Boyle, who has won three of the past four DICKS’ Nationals championships. He’s also coached national power St. Patrick’s (N.J.). His players have included NBA’s Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Ben Simmons (76ers), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Hornets) and D’Angelo Russell (Lakers).

The Black family figured playing at Montverde (20-3), currently No. 9 in USA Today’s national rankings, Rechon would adjust to playing with other other elite high school players, making the transition to North Carolina much easier in 2018.

But it’s been much harder for him than anticipated..

“I knew it was going to be challenging and everyone down here has been pushing me to the limit,” Black said Friday. “It’s been more than I expected, but it’s been pretty good, too. I’m starting to settle in and play better, and I feel like it’s going to help me in the long run.”

Boyle said Black has had his moments, but he’s also struggled.

“We’ve had five guys picked in (the top three of the NBA draft) the last six years, so we’ve been around a lot of talented guys,” Boyle said. “Almost everybody we have had has gone through a transition year of learning, learning how to play harder and learning to play with more talented players instead of just being the one.

“There’s an adjustment to that. In (Black’s) case, that’s normal. It takes time to fit in, but I’m really happy with him.”

Boyle said Black is playing much harder and smarter, versus when he joined the team last fall. At the recent Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo., Black had a team-high 15 points in a 74-40 win against the Kickapoo (Mo.) Chiefs.

He had 12 points the next night against the Memphis (Tenn.) East Mustangs, a team that upset Montverde on a buzzer-beater. In the third-place game the following night, Black made 4-of-5 shots and had 12 points as Montverde beat national power Findlay (Nev.) Prep 79-65.

“Leaky has always been full of potential and he’s slowly becoming productive,” said ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi, whose service ranks Black No. 39 nationally in the class of 2018. “He’s growing into his game at Montverde. I love his tools and talent. He handles the ball well at his size and plays best in transition, which is a big part of UNC’s game.

“He needs to continue to be more aggressive and become a dependable open shooter. But he’s doing it within the framework of the team, and I’m seeing a little more defense, too.”

For all the progress, Black has had low points, too.

“Absolutely,” said his father, Chon, one of the all-time leading scorers in Concord High history. “He was homesick. It’s a big adjustment. Coach Boyle was holding his feet to the fire, as far as producing when he was on the court. Some games he played a lot, and some games not as much as normal.

“He definitely got frustrated. He wanted to come back, but (we) talked. He eventually said, ‘This is the best place for me.’ But all of his friends back home were putting up 25 and 30 a game. I said, ‘I’m telling you I know basketball and you are becoming a better basketball player.’ ”

Chon Black and wife Carla make nearly all of their son’s home games, but that’s not the same as having him home from school each day.

“This was life-changing for me,” Chon Black said. “It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made to send him down there, knowing your son is only going to be in your house for so long. And he’s not only my son, he’s my best friend.

“It was double jeopardy for me, but I was willing to sacrifice when the reward could be even greater.”

Leaky Black said it will be.

He wants to be ready to play meaningful minutes when he arrives in Chapel Hill in the fall of 2018. Montverde’s challenging environment is preparing him, he said.

“I want to be able to do more than one thing,” Black said. “I want to rebound, push the ball, guard the best player, to be the fan favorite. I’ll do everything the coach asks me to do. And I guess it’s just starting to feel a little more real.

“I’m almost there now. Almost everywhere I go, there’s a Carolina fan asking for pictures. I don’t know how to say it, but I’m expected to do big things when I get there, just from all the love I’m getting. So I have to make sure I’m preparing myself. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready.”

Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr