Former Virginia Tech Hokies big man, and graduate transfer (read: eligible immediately), Kerry Blackshear Jr. has committed to the Florida Gators. This is not only a huge deal for the Gators and for the young man, but it means a great deal to the rest of the SEC as well.
Blackshear’s recruitment was a bit of a whirlwind, as the Orlando native never seemed to favor Florida. Several reports from recruiting experts hot on his trail had him going to Kentucky after his official visit. Then Tennessee and Virginia Tech were favored. Finally, the reports came in that he was choosing Florida. Ultimately, he announced on his Instagram the Gators were, indeed, the landing spot.
With Blackshear’s decision, the Gators immediately become the favorite to win the conference and will see their national title odds rise within the week. They now have a huge strength at a position that was considered one of their biggest weaknesses.
Blackshear averaged almost 15 points a game and 7.5 rebounds for Virginia Tech last season. There’s no reason to think he can’t duplicate those numbers for a team that is going to move the offense through him a ton.
There are a few reasons to believe he tips the scales in the SEC in favor of Florida. The Gators already had a really nice freshman recruiting class with Tre Mann, Scottie Lewis, Jason Jitoboh, Jacques Glover and Omar Payne. With Blackshear in the mix, they get more experienced and upgrade their position of need, as well as add a great locker room presence. They were expected to be a top-three team in the conference and a fringe top 20 team as it were, but now they are a top-10 team and are already being heralded as the team to beat in the SEC. That’s how good Blackshear can and is expected to be this season.
Adding Blackshear to a mix will only make Florida more dynamic and versatile. He is a good defender, so they won’t be losing anything on that end of the floor — where they greatly excelled last season — and can even space the floor, as he has been improving his outside shot steadily. He now gives Florida a multitude of lineups to work with if they just want shooters on the floor, tempo players, or if they want a more balanced approach. He fits whatever lineup coach Mike White might throw out on the floor, presumably making it better with his presence and actual play.
It goes beyond even that.
The Florida Gators have lacked a true center to play with their back to the basket. With Blackshear, that issue is addressed. He is a true post up threat and wouldn’t be a black hole on offense if he were to park himself on the block. He’s a capable and willing passer who finds shooters. In fact, about 72 percent of his assists came on kick-outs to teammates spotting up. He’ll be great in the pick and roll, as he is a pick and pop threat as well as a good finisher around the rim.
It’s not all sunshine and gravy. Blackshear is not an elite rim protector; though the Gators still have more depth behind him than the Hokies did, so he won’t be as afraid to go after some blocks or get in foul trouble.
With his talent in Gainesville, other teams in the SEC should be afraid of the Gators and how good they could be this season. They will, of course, have to actually play those games and win them to prove people right (or wrong), but it will be a good season and it should be fun for Florida fans.
This should also be the season people finally get off Mike White’s back and realize he’s a good coach. With Blackshear, the pressure is only going to ramp up for this team, but they should be able to handle it now, having their best chance to return to the Final Four since they narrowly lost to South Carolina in 2017.
He turned down the likes of Tennessee (in a slight rebuild), Kentucky (a monster leap would have happened if he committed to the Wildcats), Texas A&M (a chance to reunite with Buzz Williams) and Virginia Tech (opportunity to be “the man”) — all teams that had great pitches for him.
Why he chose Florida, we can’t really say. But the Gators will look to benefit from it and Kerry Blackshear is hoping he can solidify his NBA Draft stock through the whole process. And if the whole thing happens to result in some rings, then so be it.
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