There's a saying in baseball that goes, "There's no such thing as a bad one-year contact."
If you were wondering why teams like Duke and Kansas were in on Memphis forward Tarik Black, who started just five games for the Tigers a year ago, it's mostly because of this same concept.
Because Black has graduated and will be eligible immediately, he essentially became like a one-year contract player. A team with a hole on its roster — and an extra scholarship it wasn't going to use anyway — had nothing to lose in recruiting Black.
The commitment gives KU additional depth in the post, where the Jayhawks have quite a few options but not many proven ones.
As you'll see from his numbers, Black comes to KU as an interesting project: A player that has shown distinct strengths while at the same time being held back by glaring weaknesses.
• Two-point shooting: Black has been an excellent field-goal shooter during his entire career, peaking during his sophomore year when his 68.9 effective field-goal percentage ranked second nationally.
One of the reasons for his success is shot selection. The last two years, he took just 17.4 and 18.5 percent of Memphis' shots when he was on the floor.
Breaking it down further, Black is a player that is especially lethal at the rim. Here are his numbers on layups/dunks/tipins from Hoop-Math.com.
To give you an idea of how successful Black was at the rim ... no KU rotation player in the last three seasons had a field-goal percentage of 79 percent on close shots (the highest was 77 percent from Travis Releford last year).
Black isn't bad when he shoots two-point jumpers, either, as you can see from the middle column below.
The forward was an above-average two-point jump-shooter in each of his last two seasons, but also be aware that most of his shots were assisted by teammates. KU's Kevin Young and Jeff Withey both had a high percentage of their two-point jumpers assisted last year (73 percent each), and both players were mostly reliant on others to get their points.
A similar high number in that stat from Black — and his low shot percentage overall — means he's not a guy that creates his own shot often.
• Getting to the free-throw line: One of Black's best offensive skills is getting fouled, as last season, he drew 5.2 opponent whistles per 40 minutes (197th nationally). That trait has led to a high free-throw count for the forward each year. During his sophomore year, he posted the nation's 29th-best free-throw rate (68.4), and he wasn't far behind that number last year (66.3).
• Offensive rebounding: Black has proven to be a tough guy to keep off the offensive glass. After grabbing 14.3 percent of the available offensive rebounds his freshman year, Black pulled down 10.8 percent (247th nationally) his sophomore year and 10.1 percent (302nd nationally) his junior year. Kevin Young (13.2 percent) and Perry Ellis (11.4 percent in limited time) were the only Jayhawks to post higher offensive rebounding percentages than Black a year ago.
• Shot-blocking: Though Black didn't block as many shots as a junior, he showed the ability to be a greater defensive presence his first two years. During his freshman year, he blocked 7.3 percent of opponents' twos (79th nationally), and his sophomore year, he rejected 6.2 percent of those attempts (113th nationally). Though that percentage dropped to 3.1 percent his junior year, you'd have to figure Black still has the ability — based on the past — to have some defensive impact in the paint.
• Free-throw shooting: After posting a strong 119.5 offensive rating his sophomore year, Black's offensive rating plummeted to a mediocre 100.8 last season.
The biggest reason? Free-throw shooting.
Black's 44.8-percent free-throw shooting was the seventh-worst out of 724 NCAA players who shot 100 free throws or more.
If Black can even get back to a 59-percent free-throw shooter, he'll greatly enhance his offensive value.
• Fouling: Black is a hacker, as he has committed at least 5 fouls per 40 minutes in each of his three seasons. Last year was his worst season in that regard, as he posted 6.3 fouls per 40 minutes — a number that would have been tops out of KU's rotation players a year ago (and even above that of Jamari Traylor at 6.1 fouls/40).
• Defensive rebounding: Though Black has been strong on the offensive boards through his career, he's never excelled on the defensive glass.
After grabbing just 11.3 percent of the available defensive rebounds his freshman year and 12 percent his sophomore year, Black pulled down a career-high 16 percent his junior year. That percentage still wasn't good enough to crack the top 500 nationally.
Black provides KU with some additional depth at the 4 and 5 positions and also should help take some of the pressure off KU's young players in the post.
Though Perry Ellis' stats indicate he is ready for a bigger role, guys like incoming freshman Joel Embiid and sophomore Jamari Traylor (good defensive numbers but high turnover rate and limited offensive skills) will be able to ease their way into the rotation instead of being forced into it at the start of the season.
The Jayhawks aren't getting a go-to scorer in Black, but his skill-set might play well on a team like KU's next year, especially if mega-recruit Andrew Wiggins can draw defensive attention then dish to a guy who has been deadly when he gets it in close to the rim.
Because Self had an extra scholarship, this becomes a low-risk, potentially high-reward addition for the Jayhawks — all on a team-friendly, one-year contract.