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September 27, 2013From the moment Tarik Black stepped onto Memphis' campus three years ago, he was determined to make his education a priority. He figured that if he could get through undergrad in three years, he could graduate with a masters in four or at least be most of the way through on the school's dime.
"It just seemed like a great opportunity," Black said. "I figured, I'm an intelligent guy, I'm a smart guy and I figured that if I wanted to do it, there's no reason I can't."
He took 17 or 18 hours a semester, played basketball and flourished in both graduating with a degree in organizational leadership and averaging 9.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in three years at Memphis.
His early graduation allowed him to transfer to the University of Kansas without losing any eligibility where he will play his senior season and pursue a Masters degree.
As soon as he committed to Kansas as a graduate transfer, he rushed to campus in the spring and took both summer sessions so he only needs six more hours.
It's no wonder he's been so focused when he says he remembers his mother, Judith, pulling him out of AAU tournaments to work on science homework.
"It's always been huge in my family," Black said. "My mom and my dad don't play when it comes to education. It's definitely more important than anything extra-curricular."
Black said all the hard work has paid off now that he's ready to start the season with the Jayhawks.
"I am very elated to be here. It's such a blessing for me especially to be under a coach like Bill Self," Black said. "How many guys could say they transferred their senior year to play one season and actually got to talk to Bill Self and got to play under his tutelage, it's amazing."
Self is pretty happy with the arrangement too.
"I think Tarik Black may have been the big steal of any recruiting class in America because here is a guy that is a potential draft pick," head coach Bill Self said. "You get all the maturity and he already knows how to work; coming in for one year, he knows it has to be a banner season for him otherwise the transfer wasn't worth it. He's hungry."
With one more season to prove himself in the college ranks, Black said he definitely feels that hunger.
"It's just a fire inside of me and I don't want it to be taken the wrong way or in a selfish manner because it's not selfish, I'm very team-oriented," Black said. "There's fire blazing in me, trust me."
Black has already become a leader among the relatively young group of bigs at Kansas joining senior Justin Wesley, sophomores Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor and freshman Joel Embiid.
"I think Tarik will have a great chance to play as much as he wants. He will have a great chance to start," Self said. "Not very often do you recruit a senior that has already started three years and have him come in and be as well respected and basically be the leader of our big guys already, so I am expecting him to have a big year and he has prepared himself to have a big year because he has worked very, very hard."