Gonzaga’s coaches have already spent months trying to lure Anthony Black to Spokane. On Saturday, a rabid Gonzaga student section briefly took the baton and made its best recruiting pitch to the five-star combo guard from Duncanville, Texas.
Before Saturday’s festivities started, a chorus of “We want AB! We want AB! We want AB!” rang through McCarthey Athletic Center. Sitting courtside behind one of the two hoops at the Kennel, along with his mom and younger brother, Black grinned and waved to the crowd in acknowledgment.
Nearly 30 minutes after Gonzaga’s annual preseason scrimmage concluded, Black once again found himself smiling ear to ear when he was reminded of the moment.
“It was crazy, it was crazy,” Black told The Spokesman-Review. “I’ve never seen that before, so it was wild.”
If Black is legitimately contemplating a future with the Bulldogs – the country’s fifth-ranked combo guard hasn’t revealed a top-five list or made any hints as to where he’ll play college basketball – his experience in Spokane this weekend only improved Gonzaga’s chances of landing another top-tier national prospect.
If the Bulldogs are able to reel Black in, it’ll be the third consecutive year they’ve signed a five-star prospect after getting Jalen Suggs in the class of 2020 and both Chet Holmgren and Hunter Sallis in the class of 2021. He’d be the fourth-highest rated recruit in school history behind only the three aforementioned players.
After COVID-19 kept fans from attending last year’s event, and prevented recruits from making any type of campus visit, Black became the first recruit since 2019 to get an authentic look at Gonzaga’s preseason showcase. Pent -up energy from fans who hadn’t seen the Bulldogs in person since the 2019-20 season made the atmosphere – and the experience – one Black won’t soon forget.
“It was just crazy seeing fans back in the building,” he said. “You can tell they’ve been ready to get back in, so the energy they had was good. You could tell just how much they support the team.”
Black had done his homework on the Bulldogs but said his visit was still eye-opening in a few regards.
“I knew it was a basketball school, but the culture, the people, the fans, everybody’s super invested in Gonzaga basketball,” he said. “Just seeing that was crazy.”
Gonzaga is one of 21 programs to have offered Black, according to 247Sports.com, making a list that also includes storied blue-blood programs like Duke and Kansas, last season’s national champion, Baylor, and other major programs from his home state such as Texas and Texas A&M.
According to the recruiting website, Black is only “warm” on two of the 21 schools that have offered him – Gonzaga and Oklahoma State – and he detailed why the former is still very much in the conversation when it comes to his recruitment.
“I just like the culture and the way they play,” Black said. “They play through their guards a lot, and they just have a winning culture and they’re going to win every year and go deep in the tournament. They just win and play super hard.”
Black’s ball-handling, perimeter shooting and size for his position are three of the traits that have allowed him to climb up recruiting charts and become one of just 28 players with a five-star label in the class of 2022, according to 247Sports.com. Black said he’s comfortable playing with ball screens – a staple of Few’s offensive system – and gets up and down the floor in a way that would make him a natural fit for the Bulldogs.
“They say since they play super fast and in transition a lot, they think I’ll thrive in their offense,” Black said. “In the half-court, they set a lot of ball screens and they think I’m well in ball screens so they think I’ll fit in good with the offense.”
Aside from Saturday’s scrimmage, dunk contest, 3-point shootout and skills challenge, Black said the highlight of his visit was an opportunity to mingle with current Gonzaga players and pick their brain about different aspects of the Bulldogs’ program.
“Just meeting the team and talking to the team and seeing how they like it,” Black said. “They all have nothing but good things to say. So just hanging out with the team, that’s probably been my favorite thing so far.”
The Bulldogs may also have an ace up their sleeve when it comes to Black’s recruitment. The Duncanville native has spent time with Drew Timme, another product of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and someone who’s laid out the blueprint for Texans looking to find success at Gonzaga.
“We’ve worked out together and stuff like that,” Black said.
Black took summer visits to Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas but doesn’t plan on taking any other official visits after his trip to Gonzaga. He’s undecided on whether he’ll reveal a list of his top schools and indicated he won’t be making a commitment in the near future.
“I might come out with a list; I’m not planning to commit or anything anytime soon,” Black said. “I’ll just take a couple weeks, analyze everything and just see from there.”
It’s unclear if Black will be able to suit up for his Duncanville High School team this season after reportedly being ruled ineligible for a violation of transfer rules. According to the Dallas Morning News, it was deemed that Black transferred from Coppell to defending Texas 6A champion Duncanville for athletic reasons, though he’s reportedly submitted an appeal.