Kerry Blackshear Jr. is the top grad-transfer on the market right now and it’s not really close. Tennessee has gotten in the mix over the last week, looking to add Blackshear to their roster despite not having an open scholarship spot.
The 6-10, 250 pound power forward is a one-year program changer for some lucky team. Florida, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Gonzaga have all been in the mix, now along with Tennessee.
Blackshear is interested enough to at least take a visit to Knoxville, which will happen this Friday. Why would he want to join a reloading Tennessee team? Here’s five reasons.
The Recruiting Pitch
If you’re Rick Barnes, you start with the fact that you’ve got two senior guards returning who can really shoot the basketball. It’ll be new roles for both Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner, but that’s two guys that have been around the block a time or two. Both players are capable of averaging 15 points per night, especially with plenty of offense freed up after the departures of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. They are the two pieces remaining from the last era of Tennessee basketball and should help bridge the gap to the next one for Rick Barnes.
Second, you point directly to Grant Williams. You tell Blackshear that he’s coming to Knoxville to directly replace that production and role in an effort to further develop and follow Williams to the NBA in 2020. Williams averaged nearly 19 points per game last year for the Vols while Blackshear averaged 15. He could come in and become a primary option for the Vols, immediately becoming an SEC player of the year candidate.
Third, you’ve got to mention five-star guard Josiah James, who signed with Tennessee as a top 25 player in the 2019 class. James may very well handle point guard responsibilities from the start, giving the Vols 6-6 length at the position. James has the ability to step into the driver’s seat of the Tennessee offense, potentially easing the blow of losing Jordan Bone to the NBA.
Fourth, you point out the obvious fact that Blackshear could transform Tennessee from a rebuild type to an instant contender. You’ve got Bowden, Turner and James starting at the 1-3. Adding Blackshear at the 4 and Uros Plavsic at the 5 would be a formidable starting lineup. Tennessee would have to find some dependable depth, but on paper, that’s a likely top 15 team with a chance to be more in the spring of 2020.
Finally, you point out that nobody develops players like Tennessee. Rick Barnes and his staff have turned four three-star prospects into legitimate NBA prospects over the last four seasons in Knoxville. The transformation of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield is something you rarely see in these days of college basketball. Jordan Bone saw the light come on last season and now has a shot to be drafted next week. Imagine what a year’s worth of coaching from this staff could do for Blackshear, who is already on the NBA’s radar.