Aaron Black proved that draft positions do not really matter for neophytes like himself as he was crowned the Outstanding Rookie of PBA Season 45 in the virtual Special Awards ceremonies, Sunday night.
The son of Bolts head coach Norman Black became the lowest draft pick to ever win top rookie honors. He was the MVP Group-owned ball club’s 18th overall selection in the 2019 regular draft proceedings.
He proved his worth, rising from a third-stringer behind seasoned guys in Baser Amer and Nard Pinto to playing a key role in the Bolts’ historic semifinal finish in the 2020 Philippine Cup.
One of his finest moments came in the quarters, where he scored 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. His performance helped his team force a rubber match against then-reigning five-time champs San Miguel with a 78-71 win.
That was truly a defining point for Black, since he did it when the stakes were high – and against arguably the best all-Filipino crew ever. However, it wasn’t exactly the game where he realized he belongs in the league.
In a guest appearance in 2OT presented by SMART, the 24-year-old shared that it was actually versus Magnolia in the elimination round where he learned that he could go at-par against some of the PBA’s best.
“I think it was that fourth game against Magnolia,” he recalled of that game that happened last Oct. 20.
Black admitted that he felt overwhelmed by jitters heading into that match. He was anxious since he would be facing some of the best guards in the league such as Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, Justin Melton, and Jio Jalalon.
The Chito Victolero-mentored crew is arguably the best guard team in the league today – back-to-back Philippine Cup Finals appearances plus a Governors’ Cup championship in between speak for it.
“You’re going up against the best guards in the league in Jalalon, Paul Lee, Mark Barroca; Justin Melton, who’s such a good defender,” he said.
“So you know, going in there, I was really nervous.”
Black came off the bench and checked in just eight seconds into the opening frame, subbing in for Amer. He registered his first point following a split from the charity stripe at the 8:16-mark.
By the end of the game’s first 24 minutes, he already had eight points and a pair of assists to his name.
“You know, after the first half, I was able to score a couple of points, make a couple of assists and I felt like I belong. I felt like I could compete,” said Black, who entered that match averaging 6.3 points.
Black continued his performance in the second half. And since he already had that confidence he gained before the break, he went on to become one of the unlikely heroes that saved the night for the Bolts.
With his team staring at a 10-point deficit with barely a minute into the fourth quarter, he provided five points in a 12-2 scoring spree. That sent the game into a 79-all deadlock with 7:08 on the clock.
He also teamed up with sophomore guard Trevis Jackson, who nailed back-to-back three-pointers to flip a five-point Hotshots lead to a 91-90 lead for the Bolts with less than a minute remaining.
The game reached overtime, but Chris Newsome was there in the clutch. He nailed the dagger with 9.5 seconds left to give Meralco the 109-104 victory – and save the efforts of the young guns.
Black finished with a career-high 16 points, on top of four rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes. But more than the numbers, he was grateful for the chance to prove himself that he truly belongs in the league.
“No matter how hard you compete, you won’t really know until you get there,” he said.
“And I was thankful that I was given the opportunity by my coaches, as well as my teammates, to be able to show that.”