Black Making An Early Impact

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Sometimes the transition from high school to college basketball can take a full year or longer as a player tries to figure out her role on the team. Ohio freshman guard Kiyanna Black found it after four games.

Black scored six points or less the first four games of the season, but she’s scored 21 and 15 points in her last two games.

She credits this dramatic change in scoring to figuring out how to play to her and her team’s strengths.

“I think I’ve been more focused, more aggressive, taking better shots and getting to the rim instead of settling for jump shots,” Black said.

Black led her high school, Columbus Africentric, to a state title last season and was named a Division III Player of the Year in the state of Ohio. When Black committed to Ohio University, head coach Semeka Randall knew she was getting a player with a very unique skillset.

“I think the gift she has that not a lot of the players in the country have is that willingness to make shots and make plays for the team,” Randall said.

But Randall knows the transition to the college game is not easy, and she told Black if she wanted to be great and play right away, she needed to put the work in.

“At times, freshmen come in and expect something and you’ve got to earn it,” Randall said. “I told all of my student-athletes you have great phenomenal talent, you think you can come in and help Ohio, but I will never give it to you. You’ve got to come out here every day and put in the extra work and (Black) has.”

The strength of her offensive game is breaking down the defense off the dribble and trying to make the right play for her team. Black said she likes to get to the rim, but Coach Randall thinks her mid-range jumper is as good as anybody’s.

“Her mid-range jump shot is pretty deadly to where she can break somebody down off the dribble, then stop right on a dime and knock a shot down,” Randall said. “Not too many people have that in the country and I’m talking about players that play at the elite level.”

Even though she seems to be starting to figure out the offensive side of the ball, defense is a whole other challenge.

“She played defense in high school, but it was a different type of level of defense where a lot of the teams they played weren’t as skilled, so there’s another level,” Randall said. “It probably will take her until the middle of the season for her to figure out how she has to be committed defensively, but we’ll just continue to keep grinding it out of her.”

Black said she thinks she will be starting in her team’s next game Thursday against Eastern Kentucky. Ohio has struggled to a 1-5 start after winning its first game of the season and is in need of a spark.

The way Black is playing, the freshman might just be the right person to give Ohio the spark it needs.