Meralco's Aaron Black credits his work with his father Norman, as well as some runs with NBA players in 2019, as the catalysts to the individual success that earned him the 2020 PBA season's Outstanding Rookie award.
The second-generation Black, who was selected by the Bolts in the second round of the 2019 Rookie Draft with the 18th pick, said he and his dad and head coach sought to improve certain facets of his game during the period PBA suspended play at the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year.
"When the pandemic struck, we didn't know when the PBA would be back. We just tried to improve my game as much as possible," Aaron said on The Game by One Sports. "And as it went further, as the ban on basketball started going through three, four months, we added more into my game. Thankfully I was able to come out (strong) in the conference in the bubble."
Black became the lowest draft pick ever to win top rookie honors after a steady showing in the compressed Philippine Cup that saw him average solid numbers of 6.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists on 38.9 percent shooting from the field and 34.7 percent shooting from deep.
The 23-year-old edged out Barangay Ginebra's Aaron Tolentino, Alaska's Barkley Eboña, Terrafirma's Roosevelt Adams and Magnolia's Aris Dionisio for the award.
"I guess it is vindication, but at the same time I understand that it's just the start. There's a lot more to work for, a lot more to improve on my game. My main goal is really to win a championship, so hopefully we can get to that with the Meralco team," Black said. "But I feel very blessed and I thank the Lord for this."
A lot of Black's growth also came from training in Las Vegas two years ago after skipping his final year of eligibility with the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP. Black said he was able to bring that confidence in his next stops before reaching the PBA.
"I trained there with the guys who are going into the NBA Draft, so it was really a confidence thing for me. We worked so hard over there, but it was really just being able to compete with those guys and work out with them every day," he shared. "I was able to work out with some NBA guys as well. Just the confidence of bringing that back and starting the MPBL, the D-League and the Jones Cup (stint) with Mighty (Sports)."
Some of the players Black came across with during his time in Las Vegas were Portland Trailblazers center Nassir Little and Washington Wizards guard Troy Brown Jr.
"Nassir Little was there. We played a little bit against each other, but not really matched up because he's a big dude," Black opened. "But I remember shooting with Troy Brown Jr. of the Wizards. We were shooting for about an hour, and I did not realize he was Troy Brown Jr. until after. He's a really nice guy. We were competing, we were shooting and then after, we talked a little bit. That was a really good experience for me. I asked him a lot of things about the NBA, about his team. I really enjoyed that."
Black isn't about to rest on his laurels and is focused on becoming a more efficient point guard at the PBA level heading into his sophomore season.
"The first step is not to relax. I have to keep working. I can't rest on this award. I understand that it is just the start. And I want to improve my game on both ends," said Black.
"I want to continue to learn the point guard position, I've only been playing it for the last few years. I want to continue to get better there, continue to up my percentage on threes, twos and on the free throw line, just being more efficient for the next conference."