GREENSBORO, N.C. — As Virginia's Jayden Gardner dribbled out the final seconds, Leaky Black dropped his hands to his knees.
UNC's graduate wing hunched over and stood still, soaking in the immediate aftermath of the Tar Heels' 68-59 defeat to Virginia in the ACC Tournament. While his fellow teammates began to make their way through the postgame handshake line, Black remained frozen.
Senior center Armando Bacot hobbled over and wrapped his right arm around his older teammate. The two were roommates during Bacot’s first year at UNC, and the first-team All-ACC center said they share a special bond.
“(Black) helped me grow a lot,” Bacot said. “Just the way he comes in and works every day, it’s infectious and kind of just rubbed on all of us.”
Throughout the course of the year, Black’s played a malleable role for North Carolina.
Of course, he was tasked with guarding the opposition’s top scorer each night — guys like first-team All-ACC performers Isaiah Wong and Hunter Tyson.
But in some games, Black was counted on to create his own offense, seen in his 18-point outings against Florida State and Wake Forest, or he served as North Carolina’s main facilitator or secondary rebounder.
Through each passing season, and every new role, Black’s become accustomed to altering environments. He saw the highs of last season’s NCAA Tournament run and fought through the pains of playing during a global pandemic.
But after Thursday night’s contest, in what will likely be his last game in a Tar Heel uniform, Black couldn’t grasp his emotions.