Black shrugs off whispers
Aaron Black

Black shrugs off whispers

Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Meralco’s Aaron Black yesterday admitted he wasn’t sure of his future in the PBA after hearing whispers that if not for his father, the Bolts wouldn’t have drafted him but deep down inside, he felt he could help the team somehow and prove he belonged in the league. Last Sunday, Black was recognized for his efforts in the Clark bubble and won the Most Outstanding Rookie award.

“I don’t check social media out a lot but people told me about the whispers,” said Black who turned 24 last Dec. 3. “Dad (Meralco coach Norman Black) always told me since I was a boy, to play the right way, to be efficient the way he was as a player so I could be effective. I’m thankful to my teammates for making me feel comfortable, for motivating me. My bubble roommate was Bong Quinto and he, along with Cliff Hodge, Chris Newsome, Nico Salva and Papa Rey Hugnatan, really helped me out a lot. All the guys welcomed me with open arms and I really appreciated it. Honestly, I was surprised to receive the rookie award and I was nervous before the announcement. Dad was in the Calamba camp with Gilas and called right after to congratulate me, to say it’s a good start, that it’s something to build on.”

Although he never started, Black scored in each of his 18 games, averaging 6.6 points. But putting the ball in the hole wasn’t his priority. “I wanted to contribute in any way – rebounding, setting up my teammates, playing defense and if the opportunity came, scoring,” he said. “I came off the bench to quicken the pace, provide energy.  My most memorable game was when we beat San Miguel Beer (78-71) in the first game of the quarterfinals. I had two points in the first half and 12 in the fourth quarter.  San Miguel’s a great team, they’d won the last five Philippine Cups. Growing up, I watched the team win all those championships. But the game where I felt I could compete at the PBA level was when we beat Magnolia (109-104 in OT). If we lost, we would’ve gone down to 1-3 (Black scored a career-high 16 points).”

Black said playing point guard is now his focus. “In the past 1 1/2 years, I’ve played one a lot,” he said. “I want the ball in my hands, to feed my teammates. I owe my development to Dad and my previous coaches. In my first year at Ateneo, coach Bo (Perasol) used more of a pro offense, not too structured, so I was given freedom. In three years with coach Tab (Baldwin) at Ateneo, we won two UAAP championships. I learned a lot from coach Tab, especially from a work perspective with two to three a day practices, weight and skills training, structured offense. With AMA in the PBA D-League, I was back with coach Mark (Herrera) who was my Jr. NBA coach when I was 10. In the MPBL, I played for Quezon City coach Vis (Valencia) who encouraged me to play point guard and Zamboanga coaches Britt (Reroma) and Eric (Altamirano) who were a little more structured and I played combo guard. With Mighty Sports in the Jones Cup, coach Charles (Tiu) gave me the opportunity to play point guard against international competition. At Meralco, Dad always reminds me to play with energy, take it if there’s a good shot, work as a team, distribute the ball.”

Black left Ateneo with a year to play in his UAAP eligibility after consulting his family and close friends. “I was graduating and I wanted to better myself, explore other opportunities,” he said. “I played in the MPBL, a learning experience with the physicality. I played in the D-League. I’m happy it all worked out. I think next season, we’ll be a deeper team. Raymond (Almazan) will be 100 percent healthy. Noy (Baclao) will be with us, he’s a smart player, a defensive presence with a mid-range game. I remember him playing for Dad at Ateneo when I was in Grade 4. In the draft, we could use another good big body but whoever is the best available talent when it’s Meralco’s turn to choose should be fine.”

Adjusting to the PBA was a challenge but Black pushed himself to get over the hump. “I worked on my three-point shot and ballhandling,” he said. “The toughest I’ve had to defend were L. A. (Tenorio) who’s the smartest player in the league, Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter. Alex wasn’t even 100 percent in the quarterfinals but he was tough to guard.”

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