Calipari says 2019 will be a breakout year for returning players
It’s been nearly two weeks since Virginia Tech’s Kerry Blackshear Jr. announced that he was pulling his name out of the NBA Draft with the intention of playing one more year of college basketball, and his destination for next season remains a mystery.
The 6-foot-10 post player could soon pop up on Kentucky’s campus.
Blackshear, who will be eligible to play immediately as a graduate transfer next season, has been making the recruiting rounds in recent days. The Orlando native has already taken visits to Florida and Arkansas, and 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels reported Monday that he’s scheduled to begin an official visit to Tennessee later this week.
Daniels also said that a visit to Kentucky is planned for sometime this week, though no specific date for that trip has been set. What is clear: the Wildcats are still in contention for the player ESPN has ranked as the No. 1 graduate transfer in the country.
“I think they do have a shot,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader on Monday afternoon. “I think there are five schools involved here, including one of those being a potential return to Virginia Tech. But he’s already been to Arkansas and Florida. He’s scheduled a trip to Tennessee. And, by all accounts, he’s expected to visit Kentucky. So, I certainly think they’re in the running.”
Blackshear averaged 14.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for the Hokies last year and should be among the best players in all of college basketball next season.
An example of his talent level: Tennessee technically doesn’t have an available scholarship for Blackshear should he choose to commit to Coach Rick Barnes’ program, which has already hit its 13-player limit for the 2019-20 campaign.
“I learned this in recruiting a long time ago: I don’t ever pay attention to roster numbers and teams being full,” Daniels said. “Kerry Blackshear is good enough to where, if a team wants him, they’ll find a way to make it happen and make room for him. So, if he’s visiting, they certainly already have a plan in place that would allow him to be an addition to their roster.”
UK doesn’t have that numbers issue — there are three remaining scholarships for next season — but the Wildcats do have a couple of high-upside frontcourt returnees in Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery, both former McDonald’s All-Americans, as well as a talented graduate transfer in power forward Nate Sestina, who averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game at Bucknell last season.
That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be room in John Calipari’s frontcourt for a player of Blackshear’s caliber.
“Well, Kerry Blackshear would be the most productive player of everyone you just named. So I think he’d fit in just fine,” Daniels said. “He’s a really good player. He can help them on both ends of the floor. He can help them from a rebounding standpoint. And he can help them with his ability to score. So I think he’d fit right in and be a massive piece to their puzzle.”
Though he appears to be nearing an end to his transfer process, there’s no set timetable for Blackshear to announce a final decision on next season’s plans. He hasn’t spoken on the record about his new recruitment, and those around him have stayed mum on the subject.
For UK and the other schools on his list, the wait will continue for at least a few more days.
“It’s been a tough situation to gather information on, and not a lot of people are talking,” Daniels said. “So, I don’t know of a favorite in his recruitment.”