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Illinois Basketball Player Preview: Leron Black

Is the tenacious junior primed for a break out season?

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Maryland Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The 6-foot-7 redshirt-junior underwent elbow surgery on Sept. 13th and is slated to return to practice in the coming days. Leron Black and Michael Finke will represent the Illini at Big Ten Media Day in NYC on October 19th.

What He Did Last Year:

Black started 27 of 31 games and averaged 8.1 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game during his redshirt-sophomore season in Champaign. The most surprising aspect of Black’s game last year was his 1.2 three-point attempts per game that were converted at a 30 percent clip. His six rebounds per game led all Illini last season.

How He Fits Into Underwood’s System:

Brad Underwood wants to ramp up the energy, speed, and tenacity that the Illini play with. Luckily for him, he already has one starter who plays that way. Black is a hard nosed, in-your-face, undersized 4 that has the dial on his motor permanently stuck on “high”. Black will be asked to set hard screens on the perimeter, hit the open jumper, operate the pinch-post and play some backup 5 when the Illini want (or need) to play small ball. Black’s biggest opportunity will be on the offensive glass. Underwood’s spread offense leaves a lot of empty space underneath the basket. Expect to see Black dart to that space whenever the Illini put up a shot to try and create second-chance opportunities.

What To Expect This Year:

This is the year for Leron Black, or at least it needs to be. It is his fourth year in the program, and, in order for the Illini to be successful, he needs to be a consistent veteran presence on the floor. Black is going to be the starting power forward and lead the team in rebounds. Those aren’t bold claims — it’s just clearly Black’s role on this roster. It will be how he executes that role that will make or break the Illini. Black has four career double-doubles, and the Illini would love to see him add many more to that total this year. I think we will see Black average somewhere around 10 PPG and 8 RPG if he can stay healthy and out of foul trouble, and that is a big and important “if”. Black’s maturity and ability to guard Big Ten forwards without fouling will be vital. Illinois needs to see his minutes increase from 20 per game last season to somewhere around 30 per game this season. I think we are going to see the Leron Black Renaissance in 2018, and while he may not make the flashy plays or score the important buckets, he will always be on the floor when things are going well for the Illini.