FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas freshman Anthony Black missed the Razorbacks’ first eight summer practices, but he had an excused absence.
Black arrived a little late to the Arkansas campus because he was helping Team USA win gold at the FIBA Americas Under-18 Championship.
The tournament, played June 6-12 in Tijuana, Mexico, featured teams made up of players aged 18 or younger.
Black, a 6-7 guard who turns 19 on Jan. 20, filled in the box score in Team USA’s 6-0 run to the gold medal with an average of 4.7 points, 7 .8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.0 blocked shots and 1.8 steals in 19.9 minutes.
Kel’el Ware, a 7-0 forward from North Little Rock who will be a freshman at Oregon, was an American Black’s teammate and averaged 15.7 points and 6.8 rebounds.
Team USA topped the field beating the Dominican Republic 116-48, Ecuador 123-41, Puerto Rico 100-55, Mexico 92-64, Argentina 98-60 and Brazil 102-60.
“It’s been one of my big disappointments so far not to go to Tijuana and get a good burrito there and watch AB play,” Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman said. “But we looked [all of the games] live. And I spoke to several of the coaches who were there with him.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle was Team USA’s head coach with Oklahoma State’s Mike Boynton and Boise State’s Leon Rice serving as assistant coaches.
When Musselman coached Nevada for four seasons before coming to Arkansas, he coached the Mountain West Conference with Rice.
“Leon Rice, who I know very well from Boise State, he shared some great stories about AB in the caucuses and in practice and then stuff in Tijuana that kind of shed some light on how he interacted with these guys,” Musselman said.
Black’s first practice with the Razorbacks was on Thursday and he made an immediate positive impression.
“He’s long,” Arkansas junior guard Davonte Davis said. “He can play defensively. He can see the ground very well.
Senior guard Ricky Council, a transfer from Wichita State, said Black’s all-round play stood out.
“He’s quite tall, sees the ground very well,” Council said. “He made some good passes.
“Athletic, bouncing, all that. Being a versatile playmaker is great.
Black’s best individual performances in Tijuana included 11 rebounds against Puerto Rico and Mexico, 10 points against Puerto Rico, 7 assists against Puerto Rico, 5 blocked shots against Argentina, and 4 steals against Mexico.
After Black joined the Razorbacks, Musselman said he didn’t play like it was his first practice with a new team.
“He comes in and literally knew almost all of our playbook that we’ve put together so far,” Musselman said. “A little speechless because I’ve been through it all the time in the minor leagues, where guys go back and forth between the parent team and the minor league team. [and don’t know the plays].
“But he was literally asking about the third and fourth options on the games, and we have guys who have been here since day one and still trying to figure out the second option.
“And he was like, ‘Hey, on the weak side, what’s the third and fourth option? What’s the reading on this 3-man coming out of pin 4 down on set 50?’
“I was like, ‘Wow.’ Almost like a quarterback room. That’s what I thought I was. I thought I was with a veteran NFL QB who was asking questions and just missed a few OTAs or something.