Anthony Black: The rise of an independent shoe company player to McDonald's All-American!!!!!!!
I've been going to the shoe company events and stops for about 5 years now. I will admit I do not go to independent shoe company events. The one I go to every year in the Spring is the NY2LA Spring warmup in Milwaukee, WI. I love those because it is "independent" of shoe company politics, and for the most part you see cross matchup's of shoe company teams. There are a couple of Illinois shoe company clubs that avoid playing some independent teams( I won't mention that one some know what I'm talking about), but it's great seeing it. Anthony Black has played his entire travel ball career with 3D Empire Academy out of Grapevine, Texas. I was first alerted to him his sophomore year of high school from a friend of mine in the Texas Grassroots community. He was more known as a 4 star wide receiver prospect out of Coppell, Texas High School. The picture I saw was not a flattering looking one(cameras can do that to our image sometimes), but I started checking him out. I saw a few fall league games on BallerTV.com. He was playing with now Stanford commit Ryan Agrawal and they were a great twin tandem. He was about 6'4" to 6'5" at the time. I saw a few games and said "Wow this young man is not in anyone's rankings"? As I said he was more known for football, and being the son of Baylor Hall of Famer Terry Black. I had seen the elder Black play at Baylor and he was a high riser. I didn't quite see that part of Anthony's game at that time. I saw a slasher, passer, and could finish on the break. I watched some of his football highlights and thought, big time football wide receiver.
Junior year I checked out more of his football highlights, and a few of the mix tapes from his high school season. He was still unranked and was more of a football prospect than basketball. He was growing and you could see his game was growing as well. The athleticism was coming along as was the guard skills. He was due for an explosion, meantime he was looking for respect as a national level basketball player. He had to fight the mindset that most thought Power 5 matchup nightmare as a wide receiver. It seemed to me at this time his basketball skills were catching up to everyone else. It was obvious he was putting in work in the Lab, and football was going to have to be in the background at some point. Meantime he was growing height wise as well to about 6'6" as of last spring. At that time he was starting to show up in some Top 100 rankings nationally. I myself still was not going to independent basketball events, would go to Nike EYBL Indianapolis, Under Armour events in Chicago, and Indianapolis. At the time Indianapolis was having three events in one weekend, the other was Dino Trigonis independent event, which I just never had time to make it over there. I kept hearing about this Anthony Black kid, that I had to take some time to go watch him. Meantime he was making big moves in the national rankings last Spring. I finally was able to get out after being shut in by COVID19(had to be careful with preexisting conditions). Finally, I booked a ticket to Las Vegas after hearing about this "Circuit Championship thing" and seeing that 3D Empire and Anthony Black would be there.
Flash to Las Vegas early August 2021, I finally get to see this Anthony Black young man in person. At this time he was about Top 50, I watched him play the first day and made a comment to his Mother "he's a pro". He had grown to about 6'7", had ball handling skills, vision was elite, could finish at the rim(ended a couple of lives with poster jams), and showed a serviceable jump shot. Now he's a high riser. His commitment to defense for a top ranked player was special. Intelligence playing the passing lanes, and help side defense blocking shots and taking charges. Two end monster, don't see many of those anymore. It was the same all four days out there. Needless to say he was Most Valuable Player of the event, and 3D Empire won the tile. From then on I was sort of Anthony Black's "John The Baptist" spreading the word in the Midwest about this young man. Told my hoopheads you have to see this young man play. It was the same reaction I had when I first saw Chet Holmgren play the spring of his sophomore year in Aurora, Illinois. A pro if he keeps working in the Lab on his game. Meantime his ranking is rising into the Top 20 in the Fall.
I saw Anthony Black play again in the Fall at an event taking place at Duncanville High School. He also played the next day at the Wooten Camp in Mansfield, Texas. He dominated at both events and I said at the time he clinched a McDonald's All-American spot. Of course that was threatened when he was ruled ineligible for transferring from Coppell to Duncanville. That has been detailed many times, but he's playing on an injunction. With that he was able to get in enough games to be considered for the game. The announcement came on Tuesday that he made the team. The journey to national prominence on the high school level was complete. The long hours in the gym, the hard work to get recognized as a big time basketball player. Getting rid of the perception as a big time football prospect by giving up the sport. The endless tugging of his eligibility fight. He'll be known now forever as a McDonald's All-American.
The fight has not ended. He still has a college to pick and as far as I can tell it's likely Oklahoma State, Gonzaga, or Arkansas. Still work to be done in the Lab if he wants to play in the NBA, and has to be a good citizen off the court. I've talked to him a few times and he seems like a great young man. Like all teenagers he's not a man yet, so he makes mistakes like most at that age do. I will say he has handled the eligibility fight better than you would expect for a 17, 18 year old young man. He still should be considered for Jordan Brand Game(shoe politics might get in the way), the Allen Iverson Game, and the Nike Hoop Summit. The Hoop Summit is 12 players that play a USA vs The World game in the Spring. It is in Portland, Oregon. I think Black would be a great fit for the Hoop Summit, which picks teams to get the win, not just an exhibition showcase. His skill level would fit right in with that team concept. It looks like more eyes will get to see his talent.
This is a story that kids on the independent circuit should hold on to. The moral of the story is your talent will come to the forefront at some point. It might not be in high school, it might be in college for some of you. If you see your national ranking is not what it should be, get in the gym. Work on your skills, and be a great teammate. Do your best to be a two end warrior, that helps more than anything. Yes, the NBA has gone to an offensive mindset, but they still need two way defenders. Anthony Black is to me the best, followed by Kentucky commit Cason Wallace. I has taught me a lesson too, try my best to get to more independent events. Hopefully other national analysts will do the same. There are some great ball players playing there too, no swoosh, no Adidas, or Under Armour. Just young men trying to get their name out there and show their skill level. Thanks Anthony Black for showing me the way, and blessings to your career. I think that future for you is very bright, keep your head down, and stay in the Lab young man.
Art credit to Tipton Edits and ON3.com.