Kerry Blackshear: Evaluation

Among Virginia Tech’s various coups contained in Buzz Williams’ debut class with the Hokies, Kerry Blackshear will be ready to contribute from the moment he arrives to campus.


Introduction


We watched Kerry Blackshear far less than most other top-100 seniors, but he performed so resoundingly that he commanded a spot among the 2015 crop’s ranked players.

Blackshear, a 6-8 power forward who hails from Orlando, first surfaced at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions this past spring. There, in Suwanee, Ga., Blackshear proved with the Q6 All-Stars that he warranted national acclaim. By the end of spring he claimed offers from Clemson, Boston College, Louisiana Tech, UCF, South Florida and others.

That’s also about the time that Williams — having arrived at Tech from Marquette — began to express serious interest as well. The Hokies knew they needed to overhaul the roster and also knew they were battling from behind on most ranked prospects, so a relatively new name on the scene presented an opportunity.

Blackshear garnered further publicity by competing at the Reebok Breakout Camp, followed by a July live period tour with Q6. His games at the Peach State Summer Showcase brought numerous high-major eyeballs to the stands.

He emerged from the summer as a bona fide high-major scorer and prime target of multiple schools. He whittled his list in the fall to the Hokies along with SMU, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Clemson and Kansas State, telling me that when he committed to Tech that “SMU was very close.”

But not close enough, and the Hokies gained a young big man who conceivably could start as a freshman.


Assets


Blackshear understands that he’s a big guy. He does possess some face-up skills but isn’t hesitant to set up shop inside and deliver with his back to the basket. He possesses sound footwork that he utilizes to set up defenders with turnaround jumpers, drop steps and basic power moves. He also likes to post and then face, sometimes dribbling and repositioning to back his man down with his rear end.

Despite being thin, Blackshear carries a solid frame that should ripen over time. Given that his style does involve some power, he should benefit handsomely from that expected gain in strength.

He’s also highly mobile. Blackshear has long legs and high hips, putting more of his weight in his lower body and enabling him to change ends of the court speedily. Though his role with the Hokies may be to focus on the defensive glass, he certainly could get out on the break occasionally and finish as a trailer.

Additionally, he uses his left hand very well as a finisher and shotblocker, another skill he’ll bring to the roster.

Looking at the bigger picture, Blackshear is a competitor and we always like players — and especially big men — who improve late. With his emergence he has become effective now, and who knows what another year or two may bring.


Deficits


Blackshear is somewhat lacking in terms of explosive athleticism. This limitation manifests most severely at the rim, where he eats some layups and dunk attempts due to an absence of straight-up leaping ability. He has to gather himself far more than would be ideal, and thus even when he begins a move in solid position, defenders sometimes can close the gap and shut him down at the point of attack.

He’s also a little stiff in terms of lateral movement, and more agile opponents can exploit that when he’s defending in space. Blackshear is best when he can be the one to choose when to step away, because his reactions right to left can be problematic.


Outlook


Don’t look for Blackshear to step into the lineup next season and dominate, but having said that, don’t be surprised if he starts. At the minimum, he should become an immediate rotation player whose game should continue to grow as he gains muscle.

Down the road he could become a featured scorer for the Hokies, provided they surround him with greater quickness and hops in the frontcourt and with guards who shoot well enough to maintain floor spacing.

Bottom line: Blackshear is a terrific pickup for a coach in his first year at a program, and he should pay dividends in Blacksburg for all four seasons on campus.


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