BASKETBALL was in his blood the day he was born with his father a legendary coach and brother an NBL star, but it’s extending the Black family legacy with Willetton that Andrew Black is most proud of with the first-year captain now a 200-game stalwart.
Growing up having your father one of the best coaches and brightest basketball minds in the country had its own set of positives and challenges for a youngster, but without question Alan will go down in Australian basketball folklore for everything he accomplished.
Then Stephen turned himself into a 292-game NBL star winning championships at both the Perth Wildcats and Brisbane Bullets before a debilitating back injury brought a premature end to a glittering career.
While both did amazing things in the NBL, it’s always Willetton where the Black family has always loomed the largest creating a remarkable legacy that continues to this day.
Alan even played 81 games for the Tigers between 1990 and 1992 while Stephen played 38 matches between 2000 and 2002 while in between they have been a big part of every part of the club’s legacy as one of the strongest basketball association’s in the country.
Andrew grew up always dreaming of playing with Willetton and that started to become a reality when he made his SBL debut in 2012 as an 18-year-old, and now he’s created his own legacy that includes being captain and a 200-game player.
Growing up part of the Black family had its own set of pressures, and indeed positive points, but for Andrew it’s always been more about playing basketball because he enjoys it and getting to be with his friends at Willetton.
“I’ve just always had basketball in my blood and I’ve always just enjoyed the game. Steve and dad will tell you themselves that’s why Willetton is so important to us even though they played at the highest level, and I’ve watched that my whole life,” Black said.
“But the great enjoyment that they get from basketball is certainly from the Willetton Tigers. The joy and fun of being part of that community is just so important.
“Growing up with dad as an NBL coach and a brother playing at the top level and being so good was hard in some ways and easy in other areas having those guys being your dad and brother. But I’ve always played the game for fun and to win so that’s the mentality that I’ve always had.”
Andrew has now had the chance to be coached by both dad Alan and brother Stephen in the SBL too which he wouldn’t trade in for the world, but it’s the whole Willetton Basketball Association that means the world to him and his whole family, including his mum who is a life member.
“It was great to be coached by my dad in the SBL. Everyone that has played for him would know he’s a real player’s coach and he just rolls the balls out and let’s everyone just do their thing,” he said.
“Dad has always been great for me and it’s now been great having Steve coaching me too. The conversations that we have as a family is very rarely about anything but basketball it’s that big a part of our lives. I’ve just enjoyed all of those experiences.
“The club is just awesome to us. For mum to get life membership last year was such an amazing effort from here and my loyalty and allegiance will always lie with Willetton because it’s such an amazing place to play basketball.
“I’ve never had anything but good support from the club and I went from a very raw 17-year-old to when I first started all the way to now. I just think the SBL is such a great way to learn how to be a good man more than anything.
“I’ve had so many amazing role models on the basketball court but more importantly off it. That’s the thing that the SBL provides and people tend to overlook all the time. To have positive role models in the community doing good and giving back to all the people that helped them along the way is so important.”
Black celebrated his 200th SBL appearance in style last Saturday night when the Tigers hit the road to Kalgoorlie to come away with a crucial 89-84 win against the Goldfields Giants to keep their playoff hopes well and truly alive.
The 26-year-old who is now in his first season as captain at Willetton too is still pinching himself that he’s actually a 200-game SBL player.
“It was awesome on Saturday night, it was such a great win. A part of basketball that I really love is going on the bus and talking with all the guys, and going up and getting a really important win like that one was a special occasion for me that’s for sure,” Black said.
“It’s pretty incredible when I think about the fact I’ve got to 200 games and I don’t really know how we got here. It’s been a bit of a long journey for me but I’ve been super lucky I’ve played with my best friends the whole way through and that’s been really important to me.
“It’s just been a no-brainer for me to play and having dad, Steve and my mum around the club heavily involved has made it an awesome experience so far.”
While Black is proud to be a 200-game player with the Tigers, being voted in by his teammates and a host of close friends to be captain in 2019 likely means even more to him.
“Being captain of this club is a huge thing for me. It’s something that I had dreamed of doing from when I was about four or five,” he said.
“I grew up at the club and all the great leaders that I’ve had along the way have been so important, and to have spent seven or eight years playing with your friends and have them want me as their next captain was so special and important to me. It’s something I’d never take for granted or take back.”
What would mean more than anything to Black, though, is winning that next elusive men’s championship for Willetton.
Having experienced the heartache of recent years of playoff exits when the Tigers had teams that appeared capable of contending for the championship, especially semi-final exits to the Joondalup Wolves in 2016 and Perth Redbacks in 2017.
With the departures of Kyle Armour and Jay Bowie for 2019 and despite the arrivals of Mo Barrow and Jackson Hussey, injuries to key players and already a change of import that led to Chris Galbreath arriving and then getting hurt has seen plenty of hurdles thrown at Willetton.
But to continue to put themselves in the playoff hunt ahead of a season-defining Round 18 against the Mandurah Magic and Goldfields Giants is something Black couldn’t be prouder of.
“Trying to win that championship is absolutely everything. We’ve been so close with so many gutting losses over the last few years that I would do anything for that. I think everyone at the club knows how much we want that and the push for it is everything,” Black said.
“I think it’s been a phenomenal effort from us this year so far. You can never replace the kind of guys that we lost last year and I’ve been joking that I’ve been playing in basketball heaven for the last four years by getting to play alongside Jay, Scotty and Kyle.
“They always make the right decisions and play at their best every single night, but it’s been amazing that we’ve been able to lose a couple of those guys and play with a baby squad this year, and seeing them play unbelievably well.
“Those younger guys have got so much better which is so important for us because we started off pretty slow and they have been behind our improvement. It’s just a real testament to them and the work they’ve put in.”