By Logan Lowery
Oliver Black is getting a good idea of what things will be like at Mississippi State next season.
The 6-foot-9 former Wingfield High School forward made the decision to move from Jackson to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for his senior year to improve himself both on the court and in the classroom.
“Things have been going great down here,” Black said. “There’s new competition, new referees and a new style. It seems like things are more physical here. My post game has gotten a lot better and I’ve been getting stronger as well.”
Black has added 10 pounds of muscle up to 225 pounds thanks to IMG Academy’s state-of-the-art training facilities. He averaged a double-double per game as a senior.
MSU coach Rick Ray visited Black last month and was impressed with the improvements he saw from his early signee.
“I think he’s improved dramatically just from when I saw him as a junior,” Ray said. “When I first saw him, I thought he was a guy who played hard but really didn’t have the size or strength to play the post position at this level. Now he’s developed into a bigger, stronger kid. More importantly, he’s become a better basketball player.”
Black is a three-star prospect who earned offers from Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Tulane and Wichita State during the recruiting process.
With the Bulldogs’ lack of depth in the post, Black could factor in early next season at the power forward position.
“Coach Ray told me with the way that I play, I can make a great impact to the team right off,” Black said. “It just depends on me and how well I play as to how many minutes I’m going to get. I’m just really looking forward to it.”
Black brings in a skill set that State has lacked this season from both a rebounding and shot-blocking standpoint.
Getting after it
“I think what he does better than anybody on our team or anybody coming in is chasing the ball,” Ray said. “That’s something we sorely need. We need a guy who can get loose balls as well as offensive and defensive rebounds. Another thing that he does is he affects people’s shots. We just need somebody out there with that body and that length that can do a whole bunch of things.”
Black is not the only future Bulldog at IMG Academy. 2015 shooting guard commitment Dante Scott also transferred in and has already started building chemistry with Black, both on and off the court.
“He’s very smart and I like his game,” Black said of Scott. “We’ve been really communicating with each other knowing that we’re both going to Mississippi State about our paths, our future and what we want out of life. We just feed off of each other on the court.”