UK Men's Basketball

For grad transfer Blackshear, Florida’s need trumped Kentucky’s desire

When Rick Pitino cited weather as a reason he could not come to a Southeastern Conference Media Day one year, then Florida coach Billy Donovan joked that the Kentucky coach had been doing a rain dance on the airport tarmac.

Fast forward to Wednesday when attending SEC Media Day was cited as a reason highly coveted graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear chose Florida rather than Kentucky.

“I told him throughout the (transfer) process, ‘If you come to Florida, I’ll bring you to Media Day,’” Florida Coach Mike White said.

This was part of White’s way of telling Blackshear, an All-ACC player for Virginia Tech, he would be a team leader for the Gators.

“‘You won’t be coming in as the guy who has to work his way into the trust of the staff,’” White said. “‘You’ll be the lone senior. Speak up! We’ll be relying on you. You’ll be an extension of our staff.’”

Blackshear found this appealing.

“That was cool,” he said. “Just understanding I had a big role on the team was really fun for me. It made me understand I had to be one of the leaders this year.”

UK Coach John Calipari has made no secret that he sought to add another “big” as a safeguard against foul trouble or injury. When asked if he seriously considered UK as a transfer destination, Blackshear said, “Heavily. Heavily.”

Perhaps putting the best face on the situation, UK sophomore guard Ashton Hagans said he was happy that Blackshear went elsewhere.

“I’m glad we didn’t (get him),” Hagans said. “It lets EJ (Montgomery), Nick (Richards) and Nate (Sestina) show what they’ve got. Give them more minutes to play.”

Hagans all but gushed about the improvement Montgomery and Richards have made since last season.

“Nick is totally different,” he said. “Looks 10 times better. EJ is 10 times bigger and better.”

Hagans conceded that Blackshear, whom the media voted as preseason SEC Player of the Year, would have been a nice addition to Kentucky’s team.

“It would have been,” he said. “But now, we’re moving on from that.”

Blackshear, who is from Orlando, spoke of how intently the Florida players reached out to him.

“They were persistent,” he said. “Really persistent. They kept engaging me.”

Blackshear scored 1,152 points and grabbed 616 rebounds for Virginia Tech.

“What will be bring?” White said. “A bunch.”

The Florida coach also cited how Blackshear can contribute an intangible benefit.

“Our guys know he’s good,” White said. “And he’s a high-level communicator. He’s a positive-reinforcement guy with his teammates. He goes a really good job with our younger team. They were excited about the day he committed.”

‘No Smile November’

In reaction to the 118-84 loss to Duke to open last season, Hagans said that UK players had adopted a “No Smile November” policy.

“How about that?” he said. “We’ll start that trend and see how that goes.”

When asked why the UK players decided on this policy, Hagans said, “You know, last November.” Then he chuckled, which seemed OK since it was October.

hagans.jpg
Ashton Hagans took questions from reporters during SEC Media Day on Wednesday. He promised a locked in group of Wildcats this season. Butch Dill AP

“We got a little bit upset . . . ,” he said of the loss to Duke. “This year we’re trying to go out there with a different mindset. Just try to stay more focused (and) have all 10 toes ready to go out there and fight that first game.”

Hagans’ father, Marvin, had called it turning off the “fun button.” When asked if the fun button stayed on going into the Duke game, Hagans said the coaches had referred to the rollicking UK locker room as resembling a concert.

“This year everybody is just locked in,” he said.

Politically incorrect?

When asked about California adopting a law allowing a college athlete profiting from his or her name, image and likeness, South Carolina Coach Frank Martin suggested the sport did not need lawmakers getting involved.

“I’m not going to tell politicians how to do their job,” Martin said. “I don’t think they should get involved.”

Martin said he had been part of ongoing discussions about changes in the NCAA rules regarding name, image and likeness.

Politicians “should be concerned about making education affordable” rather than college athletics, he said. “Govern everybody, not that 1 percent (that could profit from name, image and likeness).

Platoons?

After finishing last season with seven healthy scholarship players, Missouri Coach Cuonzo Martin said that depth should be a team strength this season.

When asked if he might mimic UK circa 2014-15 and play platoons, Martin said, “I wouldn’t necessarily do that. Key players need to know when they’re coming in and out of a game.”

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