After weeks of speculation, Kerry Blackshear
announced that he will be transferring from Virginia Tech to Florida for his final season of eligibility. The news was a disappointment for the Hokies but not a surprise given the numerous schools that Blackshear has visited since removing his name from the NBA Draft.
So with that said, here's a few thoughts in the aftermath of the Blackshear decision starting with how this affects the Hokies next season.
1. Larger Roles Coming for John Ojiako, Branden Johnson
With Blackshear not returning, it clears the way for both John Ojiako and Branden Johnson to have larger roles next season. While Mike Young could go small at times with PJ Horne at center at times, Young's offseason additions make it apparent that he'll use Horne more as a power forward with Ojiako and Johnson splitting the center role.
Ojiako seems likely to be the starter after a rapid rise this spring that saw his recruitment explode with several major conference honors before committing to the Hokies. Ojiako will have some work to do in the weight room to add some size while transitioning to the collegiate level usually takes more time for a big man than a guard.
Don't be surprised if Ojiako starts out in a smaller role given the presence of a veteran like Branden Johnson, allowing Ojiako a smoother transition as he takes on a larger role throughout the course of non-conference play.
Johnson is a little undersized at 6'8'' and hasn't played at the highest level coming from Alabama State in the SWAC, one of America's weakest conferences, but Johnson does bring collegiate experience that will be valuable. Johnson has showed intriguing potential in the past averaging 7.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in 2017-18 before a regression that included a smaller role last season.
Johnson may not be able to stretch the floor like Kerry Blackshear, but he can be a solid, veteran interior presence that can be a stopgap of sorts in non-conference play to help Ojiako get his feet under him.
Additionally, having those two and Keve Aluma along with PJ Horne still as a big man, even if he may be a power forward, should give the Hokies plenty of depth that can help provide healthy competition in practice to spur development.
2. Holding the Open Scholarship Likely The Best Move
While it is possible that Virginia Tech could find a grad transfer for next season, the most sensible move at this point would be to hold onto the scholarship in pursuit of building a balanced roster by class for the long-term health of the program.
Mike Young mentioned early this week that one of the challenges already has been finding ways to bring in talent without skewing it towards one class, causing a scholarship imbalance by class. While the Hokies may not have a perfect balance with four 2019 commits plus Landers Nolley basically being a part of that class as a redshirt freshman, the Hokies can start smoothing that out by holding on to next season's scholarship should they be unable to find a grad transfer that fits.
At the moment, Johnson is the only senior on next season's team and while there's always the potential for a transfer given the way collegiate sports are now, having a guaranteed second scholarship for the next class would be the most sensible thing and give Mike Young more flexibility on the recruiting trail.
Virginia Tech also appears to be anticipating having the scholarships to add a point guard, wing, and big man with four-star PF PJ Hall, four-star PG Myles Tate (Hall and Tate are teammates), four-star SF Jaden Seymour, four-star SG Niels Lane, and rising PF Zed Key
among those top targets in 2020.
Given all that, not only does it make the most sense for VT to hold that spot open for a grad transfer only, but that also looks like the plan for the Hokies with Blackshear heading to Florida.
3. Kerry Blackshear Made the Most Sensible Decision
Obviously, Virginia Tech fans rightfully wanted Kerry Blackshear in a Hokies' uniform especially after an All-ACC Second Team performance last season that showed he has the potential to be an All-American in the future. While Blackshear would have given the Hokies a great chance at making a fourth-straight NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history, it's hard time to turn down the chance to return to your home state to be a star on a team with the pieces to make a Final Four run.
One thing that may have been overlooked in the transfer process is the fact that Blackshear has been at Virginia Tech four years. In a sport where redshirting is rare, most college basketball players go in expecting to stay four years with the other players that signed with Blackshear all no longer at Virginia Tech (Justin Robinson
, Ty Outlaw, Chris Clarke).
While Blackshear did still have plenty of connections at Virginia Tech and has proven to be a more than capable leader, there's something to be said about not having the guys that you came in with after the traditional four years.
Combine that with the opportunity Florida provides to not only be in a central role but also do so in his home state on a team that can make the Final Four in 2020 and it all made too much sense for Blackshear especially in contrast with a Virginia Tech team that may not have had enough pieces to reach the NCAA Tournament with Blackshear next season, though they would have likely been on the bubble.
4. Mike Young Epitomizes Class
In the aftermath of Blackshear's decision, Mike Young showed why he is so respected in the industry sending his well wishes to a player who he never had the opportunity to coach.
No one was expecting Mike Young to make a statement but the fact that a new head coach would go out of his way to send his well wishes to a player he never coached is a testament to his character. There's not much else to say other than just like it's easy to root for Kerry Blackshear at Florida given all he did at VT, it'll be easy to take pride in Mike Young and his character being at the helm of Virginia Tech men's basketball.
Photo Credit: Bobby Murray
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