Dooley: Finally, a senior leader-to-be on UF roster

Virginia Tech's Kerry Blackshear Jr. handles the ball during the second half of a game against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

Mike White couldn’t discuss his new star basketball player during Thursday’s SEC Summer Teleconference with the few hacks not on vacation this week.

Paperwork and all, you know.

Still, the decision by Kerry Blackshear to finish his career at Florida continued to make rumblings throughout the basketball world where everyone with a login was adjusting preseason Top 25s to illuminate the seismic roster change.

“We’re not in a position to discuss any new signees,” White said.

Blackshear will make it official soon, then attend Summer B and report as the final piece of as full a roster as Florida has had in a long time.

“On paper, we’ve got some talent,” White said, “but that has nothing to do with production and that will be communicated to this team.”

The addition of the 6-foot-10 Blackshear not only gives Florida a powerful force underneath, it also gives White something that was noticeably lacking.

A senior.

White’s first class at Florida is gone with three graduates and Keith Stone’s transfer to Miami. The next class included Eric Hester, who left, and current redshirt juniors Dontay Bassett and Gorjok Gak.

Blackshear gives the Gators a senior. The rest of the roster is filled with freshmen and sophomores, testament to White’s recruiting.

But as it is with any team, how the 13 scholarship players blend will be a major factor in how well this team plays.

Who will lead them? A senior who has never played in the O-Dome? Two juniors who just saw their roles change on the team? Or the 11 underclassmen?

“That’s what we’ll need,” White said. “Freshmen leadership, sophomore leadership. You hope some of the returnees can provide some. We’d like to find four, five, six of them.

“I think Andrew Nembhard is a guy who can step up in that regard. He did late last year. He’s communicated that in abundance and stressed a high level of interest in doing so.”

Which is a fancy way of saying, “Andrew wants this to be his team.”

Nembhard closed last season with a flourish, tested the NBA waters and returned to give Florida another year. What better player to take your team by the reins than your point guard?

He’s going to have a lot of options when he brings the ball down the floor. There was a reason Florida fans were constantly checking their phones this week. The ones who knew about Blackshear, who saw him play at Virginia Tech, know what a beast he has become.

He gives the Gators what they have lacked — a guy to go to when you need a basket. Last year, it was usually the reluctant star KeVaughn Allen or later erratic Jalen Hudson taking the last shot.

Blackshear was the jewel of the available crop of grad transfers because he brings so much to the menu — size, 50.8-percent shooting, strength, range (33 percent on 3s), rebounding and experience (four games in the Big Dance the last two years).

You add that to the three emerging stars of last year –Nembhard, Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson — and the highly-rated new class and you kind of see what all the fuss is about.

Especially if freshman Scottie Lewis plays like the one-and-doner he is expected to be (NBA has him as the 14h pick in 2020).

“We hope he is extremely impactful,” White said. “He can affect the game in so many different ways. He’s not going to be a guy who is hunting shots.

He competes, he’s a high-level defender. He’s a versatile guy.

“The thing I like most about him — I’m most eager to see in practice — is his competitive level.”

The 2019-20 Florida team is set after a wild trip through the transfer portal with players coming and going.

There are no guarantees, just possibilities.

“Expectations, uncertainty, excitement,” White said.

Oh my.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. Basketball is probably the one sport that can be affected most by adding one player. Here’s hoping that this squad puts it all together early and brings a basketball title back to Gainesville!

  2. As a commenter who criticized Coach White at the beginning of this year (2019), I’m stoked for the ”expectations, uncertainty, excitement.” And all I want is this team to show us some offense.
    ”1 and done” is a term used for future NBA stars that only need a single year of college b-ball.
    But for me, ”1 and done” was the shot selection of last year’s Gator Basketball team. So, hopefully, that all changes this upcoming U.F. Gator Basketball season. Go Gators! Just win baby!

  3. My opinion : Nembs needs to get confidence in his game. He needs a consistent 3 pt. shot (38% or better) and be confident enough to run the offense, dribble drive and score, dribble, drive and pass, play TOUGH DEFENSE and understand where everyone is supposed to be on plays and formations. He’s got the talent, just needs a confidence boost. Only my opinion. Having a big man will help a LOT.

  4. With this development UF really filled out the roster. We can put young guards on the court and let them fly, or muscle up big bodies in the paint for point-blank offense.

    The challenge will be for Coach Mike White and staff to quickly hone this mixed group of players into a team. Nembhard is the glue to bind the parts. IMHO, it’s because of his mega-talent and experience at point that this team has a chance to be good – this season.

    Blackshear significantly bolsters the Gator front court and establishes an inside emphasis to focus on going forward. We’ll see twin tower action with Stokes and/or Gak. It’s been awhile since we could go inside at will, through multiple positions and players. That takes scoring pressure and coverage away from our young perimeter sharp shooters.

    Lots of parts and talents represented in this group of players. The potential is there for Gator Basketball to have a big year.

  5. OMG. NBC sports has Gators at No. 10 pre-season basketball 2019-20. or c Stop this nonsense. Prove it on the court. As one Gator commentator said: “don’t start cutting down the nets just yet.”

    I’m not saying Gators are not good. I am saying they have a good chance to be good. Remember the 04s? That team was unranked in pre-season with only one starter back (Brewer). And we all know where and how that team ended the season.
    Peace to all