Kerry Blackshear watch has really intensified as of late as the Virginia Tech graduate transfer has started to take visits, both official and unofficial, to a lot of the programs rumored to be in the mix. After Florida got the first visit from Blackshear (technically an unofficial visit) he went to Arkansas and will be visiting Tennessee later this week and while a Kentucky visit hasn’t been officially scheduled it’s wildly believed he’ll go sometime shortly after the Knoxville visit.
A lot of the talk around sources close to Blackshear is that he’s close to making a decision. It’s said that he isn’t someone who loves the process of travelling around the country hearing pitches from schools and that he is tiring of the process. It’s believed he’s not going to stretch the decision out any longer than he has to and that has many people believing a decision will come sometime next week.
More interesting talk from sources is the believed motivations behind Blackshear’s eventual decision. Playing for a winning team is said to be his biggest priority and going on a deep run in March is more important than him being the featured piece of a roster. This was confirmed to me by sources from around the Tennessee and Arkansas programs which adds some legitimacy in my mind considering the fact that him desiring the most team success possible doesn’t put the Volunteers and Razorbacks in the best position.
Speaking of Tennessee and Arkansas in the pursuit of Blackshear, it should be noted that currently neither of them have a scholarship open if they were to add him. Nowadays I don’t think that’s a major problem as I’m sure both Rick Barnes and Eric Musselman would have no problem forcing out a current scholarship athlete to make room for Blackshear but it’s an element of the recruitment I think is worth noting.
Back to the matter of Blackshear desiring a winning program for next season I think it’s obvious that it pushes Kentucky and Florida to the top of the pack and that it also probably eliminates the incumbent Virginia Tech as well as Buzz Williams’ Texas A&M from the mix. Kentucky, as always, is full of young talent with a lot of stars behind their names and if they added Blackshear there’s no question most national college basketball writers would have the Wildcats in the top four of preseason rankings. While I think a compelling argument could be made as to why Florida would be the better roster than Kentucky if Blackshear joined them, as the roster is currently constructed Blackshear probably sees Kentucky as the team with the better chance of going deep in the Tournament.
There’s something about Blackshear wanting to play for the best possible team next season that I find a little bit interesting that may point to that not actually being his number one priority. Michigan State is the consensus number one team going into the season right now and they were really trying to get into the race for Blackshear once he announced he was returning to college. The Spartans graduated a few of their big men from last season and Tom Izzo has always utilized big men in a focused and successful manor. If wanting to win a championship was Blackshear’s top priority you’d think Michigan State would heavily factor into his decision yet it looks like they have no chance for a visit and are completely out of the contest.
Is that because Michigan State is in the northeast and Blackshear doesn’t want to go that far from home? Potentially, and if so, the (close to) hometown Gators could be in good shape here. The fact Michigan State has fallen out of the race despite being a great basketball fit for him makes me think geographic ties are factoring into Blackshear’s decision, at least somewhat, and if that’s the case it bodes well for Florida.
Ultimately the talk about Blackshear wanting to play for a team heading deep into the NCAA Tournament is good for Florida but also makes Kentucky look enticing as well. Florida could offer a featured role in the middle for Blackshear but if he’s not looking to be the main man he may like the bevvy of bigs in Kentucky. He had a ton on his plate being the do-it-all center on a Virginia Tech team with extremely shallow depth and he may like how many posts would surround him in Lexington.
If Blackshear is looking to get into the NBA Draft mix I’m not sure playing in a crowded frontcourt would be his best option and you can point to Reid Travis from last season as someone who wasn’t able to improve his stock to anywhere near NBA status in his graduate transfer year at Kentucky. Maybe he truly doesn’t care about that and really just wants to compete for a NCAA Tournament Championship but you’ve got to think the NBA dream is still alive and for that reason going somewhere he could be featured should have some appeal.
While it’s not known exactly what is going to tip the scales in the favor of one team or another it’s believed a decision may come later next week. His choice of school will send a ripple through college basketball no matter where he chooses and if he decides to come to Gainesville than watch out because this Gators team could be special.