The best transfer on the market committed to Florida over a host of schools this week. Kerry Blackshear Jr., the former Virginia Tech standout, is immediately eligibile as a graduate transfer. The impact of his decision now has huge national and conference ramifications for the 2019 season.
6’9 senior Kevarrius Hayes produced 8.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG and 1.9 BPG with a 63.7% FG rate, as the team’s leading frontcourt player in 2018. Routinely using 3-guard sets and a reliance on outside shots, bigs like Hayes were forced to get the majority of their touches from offensive rebounds. Mike White’s team will continue to feature prominent talent on the perimeter next season, but will also be very young. Primary ball-handler Andrew Nembhard is back for his sophomore season and will be joined by McDonald’s All-Americans Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann.
However, Blackshear’s experience with this young backcourt is invaluable to the team’s success. His presence will alter the post rotation and fans can expect ~30 minutes a night, as he did at Virginia Tech. At 6’10” and 250 lbs, he also stands 2 inches and/or 20+ pounds heavier than every other big man on next year’s roster.
Post Player Rotation in 2018-19
Kevarrius Hayes (25.0 MPG) – 40.0% – Graduated
Keith Stone (19.2) – 30.7%
Dontay Bassett (11.3) – 18.0%
Isaiah Stokes (7.1) – 11.3%
Frontcourt Players Added to the 2019 Roster
Kerry Blackshear – Graduate transfer
Omar Payne – freshman, 43rd on 247’s player rankings.
Jason Jitobah – freshman, 241st on 247’s player rankings.
Omar Payne, a 4* incoming freshman from Montverde Academy, could supplant some time as well from Bassett and Stokes. Although the Gators are deep in the frontcourt, they’ll likely continue using a committee approach outside of Stone and Blackshear. Coach White will be trading a bit of defense for offense with the Hayes-Blackshear swap. Blackshear is not a shot-blocker, but an agitator and disruptor inside. He was best served using his agility in the high post to pull defenders away from the rim and using his strength to fight through contact.
Florida will thrive best playing an inside-out offensive style. Blackshear is far too productive and skilled offensively to ignore his talent. Next year’s team is going to benefit from using him in the high post and even running him through the pick and roll.
What does this mean for conference play and the national title chase?
Florida was going to be a top half SEC team and likely tournament entrant even without Kerry Blackshear’s services. The presence of Nembhard, Lewis and Mann create one of the best backcourts in the nation. Using their current stable of Stone, Bassett, Stokes and Payne would be sufficient to crash the boards and do the dirty work for this team.
However, Blackshear completely changes the potential floor and ceiling for the 2019 squad. His dominant presence inside, leadership and basketball IQ vault this team into contention for the conference title with Kentucky and a top-10 national preseason ranking. Coach Calipari has done a good job in the one-and-done era molding his teams to peak just before the NCAA tournament. With another stacked team this season, how quick the Wildcats can adjust to the college game will determine their ceiling. However, Florida arguably has the better player at every position on the floor. This will be a huge battle throughout the year.
Additionally the Gators are a dangerous threat to reach the Final Four or even cut down the nets. This team is incredibly balanced on offense and will undoubtedly turn up the heat on defense. Opposing offenses are going to have to grind out games to win against the Gators. Strong national contenders are capable of slipping against this team on a bad night. Mike White’s squad will undoubtedly be one of the most fun to watch next season.
**Edit: Keith Stone transferred from the program shortly after the seaon to the University of Miami with immediate eligibility. This not only increases the importance of Blackshear’s transfer and commitment, but creates a true committee approach behind him with Bassett, Stokes and Payne.