HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – On Wednesday night, Tarik Black had the best game of his young NBA career.

It wasn’t expected, either. After all, Black was facing a man he hopes to emulate – the Grizzlies’ double-double machine, Zach Randolph.

Randolph came into the game averaging a double double for the ninth time in his career. He entered Wednesday ranked fourth in the league in rebounding. Yet, it was Black who scored the double double and the win on game night. For the undrafted rookie out of Kansas, that double double was a career first. Black’s nine offensive rebounds actually exceeded Randolph’s total rebounding effort for the evening of six.

“The talent that (the Grizzlies) have on that team and how high caliber a team it is, to be able to go out there and perform well against them, it makes it that much better,” Black said. “And it being my hometown, obviously, I want to perform well against them because people are watching back home.”

Indeed, Black hails from Memphis, Tennessee. He’s worked out with Randolph in the past.

“I give Z-Bo all the props in the world,” Black said. “When he first came to Memphis and started playing for the Grizzlies, I thought he was a fantastic power forward. And honestly, I felt I played a little like him.

“I used to watch his game a lot to try to model my game after.”

This season has been an interesting one for Black. Undrafted out of Kansas, the forward wowed Red Nation with his energy on the floor during the preseason, earning a roster spot.

“It started with his work ethic and his attitude in camp,” Kevin McHale said. “That’s what got my attention right away. I was just very impressed with the kid as far as his willingness to come to work every day. (He) had just a great can-do attitude. Whatever you asked him to do, he did. That went a long way.”

As time has gone on and regulars such as Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones have gone down with injuries, his playing time has increased. The production is starting to catch up, not only with the double double on Wednesday, but also coming just a rebound short of a double double last Friday against the Clippers.

“I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable, but it’s still a task every game,” Black said. “(There’s) new personnel. We still have a lot of teams that we haven’t seen yet. The guys that I don’t know, I can watch film on, but I haven’t really been out on the floor with them before, so it’s still a task. It’s still something I’m picking up on.”

And while it’s obvious the Rockets will be a better team when their injured players come back, this might be a long-term blessing. Black is learning his lessons on the court with game repetitions.

“They always say that experience is the best teacher,” Black said. “So this is definitely the best way to pick up the NBA flow, learn about the NBA personnel that I’m going to have to match up against at my position. So it’s helped me a ton.

“There’s a lot of talent, so you have to be on your p’s and q’s night in and night out,” Black responded when asked about the biggest thing he’s learned so far about NBA-level play. “You have to listen to what the coach wants. You have to listen to the game plan. And you have to go out there and execute it in order to get wins.”

And win was what the Rockets did on Wednesday night, with Black playing no small part.

“It’s encouraging,” Black said. “(Randolph and Marc Gasol) are definitely one of the best rebounding duos in the league and one of the more talented frontcourts in the league, period. So having a performance like this against them is definitely a confidence builder for me.”


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