For the entire month of June, Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. stole the attention from everyone in the college basketball world. With an unofficial final list of Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas A&M, along with a return to Virginia Tech on the table, the school of his choosing was going to improve immensely.
After all of the endless speculation, whispers, and rumors, Blackshear Jr. opted to stay close to home and become a Florida Gator, a decision that the 6-foot-11 forward says wasn’t easy in the slightest.
In an interview with Will Sammon of The Athletic, the newest Gator said that he understood just how many solid options were on the table for him and knew he needed to take his time in making his highly-anticipated decision.
“Ultimately, it was a tough decision, which was why I tried to take my time because everywhere presented an array of very good options,” Blackshear told The Athletic. “But I felt like coming to Florida, the place I dreamed of going to as a kid, being an Orlando guy, I felt like it was the right opportunity for me to take advantage of my last year and leave a mark in college basketball.”
In the end, it was location that outweighed all the other factors in play. With just one more season of college eligibility remaining, Blackshear said Florida offered what no other school could: the opportunity to play close to home and make a Final Four run at the same time.
“Florida offered something that no one else in my final five or six could offer,” he said, “which is the fact that they are in-state, they are close to home. That turned out to be a pretty good factor.”
And though the Gators separated themselves in the end, the former Virginia Tech forward admitted that it was difficult turning down both Kentucky and Tennessee. He knew he could help make the Wildcats the overwhelming title favorite or replace Grant Williams in the Volunteer frontcourt and build the offense around him, two impressive pitches. He even added that he was a fan of what Arkansas laid out for him, as well.
“Saying ‘no’ to Kentucky or Tennessee was really hard,” he said. “Arkansas was in the mix. So, just different options, which was why I took so long in the process. I wanted to see all angles of college basketball, and decide what was the best one-year fit for me.”
Now, instead of joining a loaded Kentucky roster this season, the UK coaching staff will have to gameplan against Blackshear either two or three times this season during SEC play.