Blackshear ready to lead Florida

Virginia Tech transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. says it's a good fit at Florida. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

The other day, a 22-year-old grad student was walking through Publix when someone stopped him.

“You’re you, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I’m me.”

The 22-year-old grad student is studying sports management and feeling at home in Gainesville. Oh, and he is the reason the college basketball world is going gaga over the Gators in the preseason.

Kerry Blackshear Jr. offers a wide smile and talks about being home. This — the University of Florida — is where he knew he belonged. It just took some people longer to realize it.

He was always a Gator fan. He was a growing boy around the time of Florida’s basketball repeat champs. But that’s not what hooked him.

“Tim Tebow,” he said. “I was a huge fan of the Gators. I was going to be a quarterback and a basketball player. A dual threat. I thought that would be cool.”

It’s not that he played quarterback in high school at Orlando Evans. Instead, it was the NCAA football video game that convinced Blackshear he could play the position.

But by the time it was time for him to make his college choice, Florida didn’t want him for either sport. He said he was recruited “lightly” by Billy Donovan.

“That cut a little bit,” Blackshear said.

It was a little different the next time he would be recruited.

That came earlier this year when he entered the NCAA transfer portal at Virginia Tech. UF coach Mike White was the first text. And then they came pouring in like a dam had collapsed.

“It was a lot,” he said. ”They came from everywhere. It was a little bit overwhelming, but it’s definitely a good problem to have.

“Being in a college awhile, I knew where I would fit in and where I wouldn’t. I wanted to find the school that fit me. I felt like no position was wrong, I just wanted to go to the most right thing. This is somewhere I needed to be.”

A year ago, Blackshear averaged 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds a game at Virginia Tech, often playing his best in the biggest games. He’s rugged and has hands the size of a pair of knuckleball catcher’s mitts. He can shoot threes and be a go-to guy down low when Florida needs a basket.

So the pitch to him was simple whether it was coming from White or players. Florida was missing a piece to a big puzzle and his name was Kerry Blackshear Jr.

“We have a lot of talent,” Blackshear said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who are excited to be a Gator, who are excited about making a run in March. That’s what I wanted to be around my last year.

“There’s no pressure because I have really good people around me. This is a group of guys who know how to win but are also hungry for more.”

When he talked to players through social media before making his decision, “They thought I could help. They thought I could get better and we thought we could win.”

And as Florida starts full-on practices Friday, the Gators have been elevated from pretty good to a potential Final Four team by the so-called experts who follow college basketball on a daily basis.

“KJ’s been terrific,” said White, who already had pulled together plenty of talent to surround his big man (6-foot-10, 241 pounds if you’re asking). “He’s very smart, skilled and tough.”

The smarts and skills (and perhaps the toughness) come from a pair of hoops-loving parents who both played at Stetson and worked with him on his game. Father Kerry Blackshear Sr. on the ball-handling and shooting. Mom Lamilia on the rebounding.

Florida gets what is almost a finished product, although Blackshear wants to work on his 3-point shooting and running the floor during this one season as a Gator.

Which — if you’ve seen Florida play — shouldn’t be a problem.

There’s one more thing that Blackshear will add to a team that it didn’t have last year. It was a fractured locker room with too many agendas in 2018-19.

Blackshear brings the opposite of that.

“His maturity brings so much big value to a team without another senior,” White said,

And he’s ready.

“They make me feel like the old head in the room,” Blackshear said. “I can help be a leader on this team, help us take the next step and help me take the next step.

“I feel like I can bring a calm to some of the younger players who maybe haven’t been in tough situations.”


  1. I know it is football season, but I am pretty excited about this team’s prospects. Adding Kerry really was a huge deal. I love all the recruits for sure but what we have desperately been needing is the big dog. Can’t what for Charleston.

    • David, you’re absolutely right that adding Blackshear was big. He’s only an inch taller than Kevarrius Hayes and probably no more athletic, but the offensive skills he possesses are beyond comparison. Blackshear alone would be a great improvement, but there’s also the freshman Payne, a more experienced Bassett, and a presumably healthy Gak, who doesn’t have the same skills, but absolutely has the size.

      On paper it appears to be a very versatile team. I just hope these very talented individual players can quickly assimilate into a selfless, cohesive unit.

      I also hope more posters will take notice and give this team some recognition and support. Go Gators!