Mike Talbott has scouted talented N.C. high school basketball players since 1992. He saw Jerry Stackhouse, Antawn Jamison, Chris Paul and Brandon Ingram. The first three played in the NBA. The fourth could be there as early as next season.
But Talbott – whose Star Hoopers of Tomorrow newsletter is subscribed to by 25 college programs – said he isn’t sure he’s seen many prospects like Concord High sophomore Rechon “Leaky” Black.
Black, the consensus No. 1 recruit in North Carolina for the class of 2018, is ranked as high as No. 13 nationally.
“He is unusual,” Talbott said. “A player with his size and skill set is just very, very rare.”
Black, who will turn 17 in June, is a lanky 6-foot-7, 170-pound point guard with extremely long arms. Flat-footed under a goal, he can stick his hands midway up the net. And, Talbott said, Black’s court vision is exceptional for a player his age.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams offered Black a scholarship in December, and the Concord standout committed to the Tar Heels weeks later. Before Black, Williams reportedly had offered scholarships to only two high school sophomores: former UNC stars Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock.
For many elite high school players, travel basketball season begins this week. Black will play in a tournament in Raleigh Sunday with Team Loaded. While many players will try to impress college recruiters, Black will try to hone skills already advanced beyond his years.
“It’s all been surreal,” Black said Wednesday after a workout with his Charlotte-based personal trainer. “There’s been a lot of hard work getting here, and it’s such a blessing to me to be ranked among the top 20 in the country. I wasn’t expecting all of this so soon.”
Black’s name shot up the national radar after a strong freshman season at Concord, and then even more in the summer while playing with the Winston-Salem-based CP3 travel organization.
5-inch growth spurt didn’t hurt skills
When he was 12 and went for braces, Black’s dentist didn’t have any in stock to fit around the youngster’s large molars. They had to special order.
“I recall the doctors saying, ‘This young man will be a giant,’ ” said Chon Black, the player’s father.
Black was about 6-2 when the Spiders played in the Hoodies House tournament at Ardrey Kell High in December 2014. By November 2015, when Ardrey Kell opened this past season at Concord, Black had grown 5 inches but still blessed with an array of skills you’d find in much shorter prospects.
Concord won 70-63, and Black left Ardrey Kell coach Mike Craft impressed.
“I told my staff after the game that he’s the best point guard we’ve faced in a long time,” said Craft, who formerly coached 16 seasons in college. “His size, his length, his savvy, he just dominated the game. We had trouble getting into our offense when he guarded the point guard, because he got his finger tips on the ball and got a deflection.
“Then he guarded a (small forward) and then he guarded our post player. I think he’s a great player, and he’s got a tremendous future ahead of him.”
Talbott compares Black favorably to former NBA great Tracy McGrady, a national player of the year at Durham Mount Zion before skipping college for the NBA draft in 1997.
“Leaky is a carbon copy of McGrady when McGrady was in high school,” Talbott said. “What an unbelievable scorer Tracy McGrady became. But in high school, his hero was (former Orlando Magic point guard) Penny Hardaway. Tracy was a slim point guard who really didn’t look to score. Leaky reminds me so much of McGrady back then. Like McGrady, he has a great feel for the game.”
From Duke fan to UNC recruit
Black received early scholarship offers from Charlotte, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, but fell in love with the Tar Heels and Williams after visiting the school several times and interacting with players.
Black’s father – one of the all-time leading scorers at Concord High – was always a Tar Heels fan, but his son rooted for arch-rival Duke and the darker shade of blue. Leaky once had a Duke carpet on his bedroom floor and Duke pillows on his bed.
“He was always a Duke fan and we would watch games together and talk junk to each other,” Chon Black said. “But when Roy (Williams) came in and talked to him and made him feel comfortable, and then we visited up there, he just felt like that was the right place for him. He became a Carolina fan real quick.”
Black told his parents he was ready to commit not long after the Tar Heels’ offer. Chon Black said Duke called before his son’s announcement, but it didn’t sway him.
“Carolina was the best fit for him,” Chon Black said. “Duke did call, but every kid is not built for the recruitment process and I don’t think he was. He got tired of the phone calls and people asking him to do this and that. In his heart, he knew what he wanted and he didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.”
Cabarrus County hasn’t produced an ACC player in six years, when former Central Cabarrus point guard Ish Smith – now with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers – finished his college career at Wake Forest. Black is ready to be the next.
He and his father said they’re comfortable with what Williams, 65, told them about the Tar Heels’ pending NCAA issues. Williams told them he will be in Chapel Hill to coach Black when he enrolls in 2018.
“Roy was up front and honest and let us know that from all the documentation coming from the NCAA, nothing about the (men’s) basketball program came up, not one time,” Chon Black said. “So we’re going to focus on getting better in all phases, have fun and try to win. My biggest thing is I want (my son) to be happy and to put him in the best environment.”
Leaky Black, who said he’s almost 6-8 now, wants to keep growing and improving.
“I’m just a big kid who wants to have fun,” he said. “But I want to win. I am not really a position (player), but I would like to run the show, run the team and have the ball in my hands most of the time.
“And when I get to Carolina, I want to be one of the leaders as soon as I step on campus.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr