The tears streamed down Shundilina Black’s cheeks like a river of bliss at the realization.
Her “baby” was going to college.
Although it wasn’t the route Ojai Black envisioned for himself as he signed a letter of intent to play basketball at McLennan Community College in Waco during a ceremony Tuesday, the Ellison senior guard knew what this moment meant — for his mother and himself.
“I hate to see my mom cry but I know that comes from (a place of) joy,” Ojai Black said. “To see me going off to college, growing up, and being from our family background where not too many of us go to college, it feels great.”
As the mother of three, Shundilina was overcome with emotion that her middle child and eldest son had an opportunity she never had — to earn a college degree.
“For me, it’s not about basketball, I just want him to get a degree,” Shundilina said. “I don’t want him to have to work as hard as I’ve had to work without a degree.”
Black, who helped lead Ellison (29-7) to its first district championship since 2004 and a Region I-5A quarterfinal appearance, was originally disappointed he didn’t receive more interest from Division I programs.
“For some reason, kids out of Killeen get overlooked, and he’s not the first one from Killeen that I got as a steal,” MCC coach Kevin Gill said of Black.
“He wanted Division I really bad at first, but for me, I’m just happy he had the opportunity to continue to play,” Shundilina said. “I didn’t care if it was Division I, II or III, junior college ... I just wanted to see him play.”
At McLennan, Black hopes to follow in the footsteps of former Killeen-area athletes such as Tre Nichols (Killeen, Boise State), Walter Harris (Harker Heights, Stephen F. Austin), and JeJuan Plair (Harker Heights, Sam Houston State) that have parlayed a year or two at MCC into a Division I scholarship.
“It’s a minor setback for a major comeback,” Black said. “A lot of people are going to be sorry, I’m going to work my tail off during the summer and I’m going to do everything I can to get to that Division I level ... and I’m not going to stop there. This has made me hungry — hungry.”
Black was named MVP of both the All-District 8-5A and the Daily Herald’s All-Area teams after averaging 18.3 points, nearly six assists and four rebounds per game as Ellison’s unquestioned captain this season.
“I’ve been around the state and watched a lot of basketball this year, and he ranks in the top five guards that I’ve seen all year,” Gill said. “And actually I haven’t seen a point guard that fits what I need as good as Ojai. He does it all.”
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7566