After finishing his collegiate career at Florida, center Kerry Blackshear Jr. announced Friday he had signed his first professional contract with Hapoel Gilboa Galil of the Israeli league.
Blackshear’s redshirt-senior campaign didn’t go exactly as planned as he wasn’t able to live up to the hype he got preseason as a potential player of the year candidate but he was still a dominant big averaging 13 points and 8 rebounds despite seeing many short nights due to foul trouble or injury. Perhaps the game he will be most remembered for was a 24 point, 16 rebound performance against Alabama where he caught fire in the second half and clawed the Gators back into a game where they were down by a huge margin, ultimately winning in double overtime.
It was made clear before the season that Blackshear’s goal at Florida was to improve his stock as a prospect and get some NBA looks but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. While Blackshear is a mammoth rebounder and someone who can finish well around the rim he doesn’t have the lateral quickness or leaping ability that the NBA requires and therefore his best options were overseas.
The Isreali league is one of the best leagues in Europe and Blackshear should have a chance to play right away for a team that is in a bit of a rebuilding mode. Hapoel Gilboa Galil has had some financial issues that have made it tough for them to compete with some of the top teams in league talent-wise (such as Maccabi Tel Aviv who is led by Scottie Wilbekin) and for that reason they have minutes available in their frontcourt.
In the Israeli league teams are only allowed to have five foreign players on the roster, and their rosters are usually only 12 men deep. For that reason they are definitely bringing in Blackshear to play and he should get run immediately.
European basketball is all about stepping stones–playing well in one stop and earning a better contract elsewhere. We just saw this with another Florida big man in Kevarrius Hayes who started in a pretty good Italian league coming off his graduation where he played really well. That single season performance was enough to earn him a contract with French Club ASVEL, a team playing in the Euroleague which is the best league in the country after the NBA. Blackshear will be looking to have a similar career arc starting with a good performance with Hapoel Gilboa Galil.
Surprisingly, Blackshear isn’t the first former Gator to play for the club. Kenny Boynton was signed by them shortly after his time with Florida ended. He actually started in the same league but on a different team (Barak Netanya) and after getting cut five games in signed a one-month deal with Hapoel Gilboa Galil. Additionally, there is word that Patric Young will also be joining the squad in the upcoming season meaning their front court could be very Gator-centric.
Blackshear’s season with Florida didn’t go as many expected it would but he took his talents to Gainesville when he could have gone to any program in the country and for that reason he will always be a beloved Gator. We wish him the best as his professional career begins.