By LARRY VAUGHT
If Kerry Blackshear had transferred from Virginia Tech to Kentucky, there’s little doubt that John Calipari’s team would have been ranked No. 1 going into this season. Instead, he picked Florida, his home state, and now some are expecting the Gators to finish ahead of UK in the Southeastern Conference race.
“He’s very talented. He’s smart. He understands the game at a high level,” Florida coach Mike White said Tuesday at his team’s Media Day. “He’s tough. He’s stronger than he looks. He looks strong, but he’s really strong, and he’s difficult to defend. He’s a good defender, as well.
“He gives us an opportunity to play a little bit differently offensively than we’ve played here in that we’ve struggled to score on the interior. We’ve struggled at times to get to the foul line, to throw it in the post. He’s the best passing big that I’ve coached. He’s good at a lot of things.”
Yes he is. That’s why he was considered the nation’s best graduate transfer much like Stanford’s Reid Travis was a year earlier when he picked Kentucky.
Blackshear, like Travis, contemplated going to the NBA. Blackshear, like Travis, opted to stay in college and chase a national championship at Florida where he joins a roster loaded with young talent.
“Kerry could have left (for the NBA). He had a degree. He could have — there was probably a line of people willing to offer him a contract to play professionally. He wanted to pursue a graduate degree here, and he wanted a chance to play for a really, really good team and be a big part of that,” White said.
“There’s not a big sell to K.J. In fact, he passed up an open shot the other day, yesterday, that I wasn’t too happy about, and I let him know it, and he understood it. He’s so unselfish. He’s leery of stepping on toes. He wants to gel so badly that you can see he’s probably overthinking it a little bit.
“Really unselfish, super skilled — a couple of these other guys we’ve got to rein in a little bit, but I don’t have that worry with him. He wants Florida to win. He’s in a good place right now. If we’ve got 14 that want Florida to win more than anything else, then we’ve got a chance.”
Again, sounds like the same attitude Travis had and Kentucky fans know how well that worked out for the Wildcats and is a big reason not to discount the Gators’ chances for having a special season.