By LARRY VAUGHT
There was a time it seemed that Kerry Blackshear might transfer from Virginia Tech to Kentucky for his senior season. Instead, he chose Florida.
Blackshear had 18 points and six rebounds in UK’s 65-59 victory over Florida Saturday night.
Florida coach Mike White said he didn’t say anything “specific” to Blackshear before the game.
“He had a lot of really good options (where he might transfer) and then heading into the Texas A&M game (where his former coach at Virginia Tech is now the head coach) recently I brought it up to him. He dismissed it quickly, he said, ‘Coach I haven’t thought about that stuff,'” White said.
“He is a really really mature young man. I didn’t think it would be a factor at all. I thought he played very well. He had a very tough game last game, wasn’t on the floor much. Terrific player, I don’t know where we would be without him. Very fortunate to have him, glad he’s a Gator obviously.”
Blackshear said his only focus was the “importance” of the game with Florida trailing UK by two games in the SEC race. Now the Gators are three back with only four games to play.
“They’re (Kentucky) number one right now, head and shoulders number one after this game, but we had the opportunity to try to get closer to being number one and they did a really go job of making it tough,” Blackshear said.
Kentucky center Nick Richards had nine points and six rebounds in his matchup with Blackshear.
“He’s elite. Probably one of the best players in the league, definitely one of the best bigs in this league, on both ends of the floor,” Blackshear said. “He plays above the rim on both ends of the floor. Just tried to make it tough on him. He did a really good job competing and I enjoyed that game.”
Keeping Richards off the boards was a priority for him.
“Just understanding that all those dudes in the front court, they crash and attack the glass. Our guards did a really good job cracking down and I think that was difference and we were able to get an early lead,” Blackshear said.
Richards admitted it was fun playing against Blackshear and returned the Florida player’s compliment by also calling him one of the best players in the SEC.
“I thought he played really good tonight. He made a lot of good 3’s and a lot of smart decisions. He made a couple of assists to his players. I thought he played really well overall,” Richards said. “The (defensive) strategy was basically making his catches hard. Take away his 3-point shots. I think he went two for six which was good for us.
“But overall as a team, we defended properly. Obviously, there’s going to be some breakdowns, but I think we recovered from those late in the game and I think we need to work on it a little bit more.”
Richards also said there was not a lot of interaction between him and Blackshear when the current Florida star was contemplating a transfer to UK and visited Kentucky.
“Honestly it was just a hi and a bye. I saw him once while he was on campus and he came while I was packing to go home,” Richards said.