Tarik Black rolled out of bed at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday this week, giving himself plenty of time to prepare physically and mentally for Bill Self’s Basketball Boot Camp, set for a 6 a.m. start in Kansas University’s practice gym.
“I have to be awake in order to run,” Black said Friday afternoon after learning he, Andrew White III and Naadir Tharpe had been singled out by coach Bill Self as players who “may be the ones who stood out the most” during a week of non-stop sprints, backboard touches and defensive slides for an hour before dawn.
“I had to get here and sit in the gym a minute. That was one of the hardest things, waking up every morning, knowing I’m about to go to the gym, and I’m about to be extremely tired in 20, 30 minutes. It’s a very hard thing mentally. Coach Self actually knows that mentally is where it all is at. If you can overcome it mentally, your body will keep going,” Black added.
Black, a big-bodied 6-foot-9, 260-pound senior who is immediately eligible after transferring from Memphis where he has earned his undergraduate degree, said his first and last Boot Camp was as difficult as advertised.
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve done, especially in my college career,” said Black. “At the same time, I’m a senior — no excuses for me, anymore. I have to get through and make it through anything coach puts me through. One reason I came here is I trust him. Going through Boot Camp ... I know it’s to get me better.”
Black said he was impressed with the effort of KU’s six freshmen — Joel Embiid, Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp, Frank Mason, Wayne Selden and Andrew Wiggins.
“If I was a freshman going through this stuff I would have given up. I can honestly say that right now,” Black said. “We didn’t have any freshmen give up. We didn’t have any freshmen hurling in the trash can. Everybody made it through.”
Black saw just one Jayhawk puke at Boot Camp, on Friday.
“I’ve got to put my boy, Naadir, on blast, man,” Black said with a smile. “The last day, today, he let it go. Like coach said, the last day is hardest day of Boot Camp. He had to do so many more (suicide sprints). He said he ate some weird stuff last night. He had to let it go.”
Tharpe, a junior, actually ran 36 suicide sprints (running to halfcourt and back, three-quarter court and back and fullcourt and back) Friday, because as point guard/team leader he was asked to help lead the different groups. Everybody else ran 30 suicides for time.
“I feel everybody played a role in being a leader. Naadir did, Frank (Mason) did as our point guards. Everybody played their role to help somebody,” said senior Niko Roberts. “The freshmen did really well. They worked hard. I was really impressed. They were more mentally tough than a lot of freshmen are.”
Of Black’s effort, Roberts said: “He is strong. He is conditioned. He came into Boot Camp ready and he did a really good job.”
KU coach Self said he was impressed with his 18 players who all made their conditioning times.
“The guys did great. I mean really good. It’s probably as good a group as we’ve ever had,” Self said. “The new guys did great. I was pleased with them all. I would say the most consistent guy we had all week was probably Andrew White. I thought Naadir Tharpe was really good. Of course, Tarik Black. I would say to me, those may be the ones who stood out the most, but they all did good. They all helped each other out. Today got a little long and tough for them. They pulled it back together and helped each other. I thought it was a pretty good team-building experience.”
Boot Camp at KU normally encompasses two weeks, but Self scheduled just one week this year because of the early start to practice. Teams can begin next Friday in accordance with NCAA rules, instead of Friday closest to Oct. 15 of past years.
“I think the guys caught a break with it being one week,” Self said, “but I don’t think two weeks would have been smart. I will say this: It was good, but it was harder this year than what it has been in other years.”
The players will hold individual workouts and play unsupervised pick-up games next week. Late Night in the Phog is Oct. 4.
“They are never easy,” Roberts said, assessing his four Boot Camps. “I was happy to get through this one in one week rather than two weeks. Either way ... the freshmen are already worried about Boot Camp. Whether it’s one week or two weeks, they don’t really know the difference. We know it was tough.”
Black said the players definitely are in a good frame of mind after surviving Boot Camp.
“Later on in the season, I actually fell out of shape a little bit,” Black said of last season at Memphis. “The things we went through at Boot Camp ... people would be shocked to see me doing that stuff now. They definitely would be. We got through it, came together as a team and now, here we are.”