Here’s where the top basketball recruits are playing in college next season
After Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery both announced they would return to UK for next season, another intriguing option for the Wildcats’ frontcourt has emerged as a legitimate possibility.
Virginia Tech star Kerry Blackshear Jr., who many college basketball insiders had predicted would stay in the NBA Draft, decided Wednesday to remove his name from the draft pool and return to college for one more year.
“After taking the time to weigh my options, I have decided to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft,” Blackshear announced Wednesday night. “I am still evaluating my options for my last year of eligibility and feel extremely fortunate to be in the position that I am in. I look forward to continuing my education and earning a Master’s degree while competing in the sport that I love as I continue working toward my goal of playing professionally.”
Blackshear — listed at 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds — entered his name in the NCAA Transfer Portal following the departure of Hokies head coach Buzz Williams to Texas A&M, and Kentucky’s coaches met with the 22-year-old post player’s family shortly after that.
Though the Wildcats will get Richards and Montgomery back for another season and will also welcome in Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina, they could be on the lookout for more help in the frontcourt, and Blackshear would be the most-proven player in that group.
He averaged 14.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for the Hokies this past season, blocking 28 shots in 35 games and connecting on 21 of 63 threes (33.3 percent). The Orlando native was the leading rebounder and second-leading scorer on a Virginia Tech squad that earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament and narrowly lost to Duke in the Sweet 16.
ESPN listed Blackshear, who missed the 2016-17 season due to a leg injury, as the best immediately eligible transfer for the 2019-20 college season. (Sestina is No. 3 on that list).
Now that he has made a final decision on his immediate future, Blackshear is likely to emerge as the nation’s most-recruited player for next season, and Kentucky will have plenty of competition for his commitment.
Florida represents the home-state school with several talented guards and wings but a dire need in the frontcourt. Texas A&M offers the familiarity of Williams, who got in early on Blackshear’s high school recruitment and has helped mold him into a possible pro. The new Virginia Tech coaching staff will also try to keep him in Blacksburg for one more season.
Though he would be the most proven player in UK’s frontcourt next season, Blackshear might get fewer minutes at the ‘5’ position with the Wildcats due to Richards’ return and Sestina’s arrival.
“Kerry has never been afraid of competition, but he’s also someone that relies on comfortability,” Rivals.com analyst Corey Evans told the Herald-Leader. “And Kentucky — where the message always is, ‘You’re not going to be given anything. You’re going to have to work for it.’ — compared to some other places where it’s more of a surefire bet, like a Florida or a Texas A&M, where there’s a gaping hole at the ‘5’ spot.
“With Florida, there’s a comfortability factor of being close to home. With A&M, it’s the comfortability factor of, ‘I know the entire coaching staff. I know Buzz.’ I think it just makes it a little more difficult now with someone (Richards) entrenched there that we know Cal is going to give a chance.”