Curious case of the Hoyas and Tarik Black

Curious case of the Hoyas and Tarik Black
May 28, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Former Memphis forward Tarik Black decided last week he would transfer to Kansas rather than head to Georgetown, Duke or Oregon. There is nothing curious about the decision. The Jayhawks can offer sincere playing time and he will join heralded incoming freshman Andrew Wiggins, whose presence has the Rock Chalk faction thinking national title.

What is peculiar is why Black was sniffing around the Hilltop in the first place and what this could imply about the Hoyas for next season.

First, some background. Black is one of these graduate players that have become all the rage in college basketball. On track to graduate this year, the capable but underachieving 6-foot-9, 250-pound center is eligible to play immediately for Kansas in the 2013-14 campaign. Georgetown will play at Kansas on Dec. 21.

That instantaneous part is the key and an obviously desirable attribute for national programs decimated by departures (Kansas), lacking frontcourt depth (Duke) or are perhaps another frontcourt option away from taking the next step (Oregon).

Now, back to the Hoyas. Obviously, if a high profile program like Georgetown comes knocking with an available scholarship*, you answer. However, answering is not the same as actively pursuing. Before announcing his decision, Black reportedly visited the campus this month for a meet-and-greet.

(*) Ideally for next season purposes, coach John Thompson III uses the available scholarship on a lead guard to backup up senior Markel Starks if he uses it at all.

No tour of McDonough Arena is required to know that the Hoyas are, in theory, rather deep among their frontcourt options even after Otto Porter Jr. left for the NBA.

Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins each started all 32 games last season. Moses Ayegba played key minutes off the bench. Seldom-used Bradley Hayes offers length and promise.

The real intrigue comes with Greg Whittington and former UCLA transfer Josh Smith. Last month Thompson said he "anticipates" having Whittington and the 6-foot-10, 300-plus pounder Smith eligible for the upcoming season.

Whittington missed the final 19 games last season due to an academic suspension. At the time, the lengthy forward was Georgetown's second-leading scorer and rebounder.

The versatile Whittington can play several spots. With the assumed personnel, the rising junior would likely receive heavy minutes at small forward. Aaron Bowen, Stephen Domingo and incoming freshman Reggie Cameron can also serve time there.

In other words, there are not that many if any minutes available for a new guy. Whether Black is more talented, potentially more productive than some of the existing options or not, there would still be more viable players than playing time if he came aboard.

Therefore, we again ask the question: why was Black apparently looking hard at the Hoyas?

Whittington's situation involved grades. If he passed classes during second semester, then in theory he should be on the court for the Hoyas next season.

Smith transferred from UCLA in part because of weight-related issues. What kind of physical shape the true big man is in whenever he next plays a game is one question. Since the transfer took place during the first semester of his junior season, Smith is eligible to play in the second semester of the upcoming season. How much eligibility he has beyond that is also another question. 

If the NCAA rules none or won't grant a waiver allowing Smith to play in three semesters at Georgetown or the entire 2012-13 season, then what? Play the second half of the upcoming season and begin pursuing professional basketball or perhaps sit out 2013-14 and suit up for the entire 2014-15 campaign, though that would mean not playing an actual game for nearly two years.

Neither of the worst case scenarios seem desirable for someone with NBA or at least professional basketball dreams. Early during his UCLA career, Smith was a legitimate first-round prospect. Then again he needs training help and where better than at Big Man U.

The available scholarship came about because freshman Brandon Bolden transferred to Kansas State. At this point, the only others associated with the team that have moved on are an assistant coach who became a head coach and took Georgetown's director of basketball operations with him.

If one of the aforementioned situations is not what it seems, that could provide a more logical explanation for Black kicking the blue and gray tires. At this point, there is no evidence that the courting of Black was anything more Thompson looking to beef up his roster for next season. Ideally, for the program, that is indeed the case now that the immediately eligible forward has taken his talents to Kansas.