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Ojai Black: From tears to triumph

Photo by: Lesly De Leon | Staff Photographer

It wasn’t long ago that junior guard Ojai Black sat in his room, crying.

Transferring to Texas State as a sophomore, Black said that he needed time to acclimate.

“I’ve never experienced something like I experienced last year with the role I had,” Black said. “So, me stepping into that backup role and being in that slump and not being able to contribute—it really hurt me.”

During his first season at Texas State, Black averaged just over 12 minutes per game with only one start.

This was a position Black had never been in.

“There have been nights where I was in my room, crying, asking God ‘What’s wrong?’ but I got through it,” Black said.

If there is one thing the athlete learned during that tumultuous season, it was to keep a level head.

Black said he credits the help of his teammate and roommate, junior forward Kavin Gilder-Tilbury.

The duo lived together during Black’s first season at Texas State. Black said that Gilder-Tilbury helped him learn the pace of Division I basketball.

“He always had confidence in me, even though I wasn’t playing up to par,” Black said. “(He) told me that it’s going to be my team next year. We are going to need you. Just keep your head in it and be mentally tough.”

Black took that message to heart.

The young man from Killeen eventually made an impression on his new coach, too.

“He just needed to learn the system and gain confidence,” said Coach Danny Kaspar. “It took him about his first six months here to figure out what we’re doing and even at the end of last year we considered Ojai as much of a starter as D.J. Brown was.”

As last season ended, former guards D.J. Brown and Wes Davis departed, and it opened up a starting spot for Black.

Finally, Black had an opportunity to prove himself.

But this time Black had a year under his belt and more important—confidence.

“It’s a confidence thing with me this year. I feel like this is my team. The guys want me to be out there with them,” Black said.

Through two games this season, Black is averaging 31.5 minutes and nine points per game.

Although Black has been efficient offensively, shooting 63.6 percent, the guard said he prides himself on his defense.

During his time at McLennan Junior College, Black was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year.

It was that defensive energy that helped secure Black’s chance to play for the Bobcats.

“Ojai has come a long way since he joined us last year,” Kaspar said. “He’s shown a great deal of maturity and improvement in his game. His best quality is that he plays very good man to man defense and shows a lot of energy in his game.”

Black said he is thankful for the opportunity that Kaspar has given him, but knows there is still a lot to accomplish.

“If he (Kaspar) didn’t believe in me, I wouldn’t be here,” Black said. “I wear my heart on my sleeves and without this game I don’t know where I would be.”

And as Black sits in his room this season, it’s unlikely that he’ll be doing any crying—unless it’s tears of joy.