Mike Young was hoping his first season as the Virginia Tech men’s basketball coach would feature one of the ACC’s brightest stars, but that will not be the case.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. announced Wednesday night on Instagram that he has decided to transfer from Virginia Tech to Florida.
The 6-foot-10 post player made the All-ACC second team as a fourth-year junior last season, when he helped the Hokies win 26 games and reach the Sweet 16.
If the Virginia Tech graduate had decided to remain with the Hokies for his final college season, he would have been the only All-ACC first-team or second-team pick returning to the conference for the upcoming season.
“He would have been, arguably, the preseason [ACC] player of the year,” Young said Thursday in a phone interview. “So it’s a shot. But you deal with it. And get a little bit better every day.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make this team as good as it can possibly be. That’s all we can do.”
Young, who was hired in early April, and his new team would have had a much better chance for a winning season in 2019-20 if Blackshear had stayed at Tech.
“From the time I got here, his availability, his desire to be back here was up in the air. So it wasn’t as though it was a complete surprise,” Young said of Blackshear’s decision to leave.
“I’m happy for Kerry. We know where we are and what we have in front of us and will not blink. We’ll keep on moving.”
Florida landed the top graduate transfer in the nation. Blackshear averaged 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds last season, when he also dished out 83 assists.
Blackshear reportedly visited Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas.
He wound up picking a school that is less than two hours from his family’s home in Orlando, Florida.
Young had made three visits to Florida to see Blackshear and his family.
“We did everything possible. He knew how much we wanted him here,” Young said. “He has very strong feelings about Virginia Tech. But he’s done it all, and he’s got to make a decision that he feels is best for him. He did that.
“I will always be a big Kerry Blackshear fan.”
Blackshear announced on April 16 that he had entered both the transfer portal and the NBA Draft.
On May 29, he announced his withdrawal from the draft but said he was “still evaluating my options for my last year of eligibility.” Blackshear told The Roanoke Times at that time that he was still considering Virginia Tech.
Young had said last week that Tech remained “still very much in the picture” for Blackshear.
Young said Thursday that Blackshear did not indicate to him Wednesday night whether Tech was in consideration up until the very end.
“He said it was very hard but he was going in another direction,” Young said. “Like everything else he does, he handled it with great class.”
Young said his approach to the season will not change.
“You work with what you have,” Young said. “Those kids want to be here. You do the very best you can with it and build it and get a little bit better every day.”
Young replaced Buzz Williams, who stepped down as Tech’s coach in early April to take the reins at Texas A&M.
Blackshear mentioned Williams in his Instagram announcement Wednesday night.
“I want to thank coach Buzz and the amazing staff over these past four years. This team has become my family and I am so thankful for it,” he wrote. “I also want to thank my Blacksburg family for taking a young kid from Orlando and showing him what home is. I am so fortunate to have stepped onto the Cassell Coliseum floor [and] walk away from Blacksburg as a graduate of Virginia Tech.
“My next chapter will begin in Gainesville, Florida.”
Blackshear completed work on his bachelor’s degree in public relations last December. He then began work on his master’s degree, taking graduate courses in leadership during the spring semester.
As a graduate transfer, Blackshear will be able to play for his new team in the 2019-20 season and won’t have to sit out a year.
Florida won 20 games and lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season. The addition of Blackshear should make Florida a top-10 team in the preseason polls.
Blackshear’s decision means Tech has now lost the top five scorers from last season’s team.
All-ACC third-team pick Nickeil Alexander-Walker opted to skip his final two college seasons and was chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft last week.
Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill and Ty Outlaw were seniors last season.
The Hokies certainly could have used Blackshear in the paint in the upcoming season.
Forward P.J. Horne, who averaged 3.3 points and 13.0 minutes as a sophomore reserve, is back. But he is only 6-foot-5.
Young did add three post players this spring — 6-9 Keve Aluma, a Wofford transfer who has to sit out the upcoming season; 6-8 Branden Johnson, a graduate transfer from Alabama State; and 6-10 John Ojiako, an incoming freshman who decided to graduate high school a year early.
“We caught a major break on a couple,” Young said of his new post players. “Were going to be just fine.”
Blackshear also would have helped Tech with his leadership. The most experienced players who will see action for Tech next season will be graduate student Johnson and rising juniors Horne and Wabissa Bede.
“Wabissa Bede, P.J. Horne and those other leaders will emerge as we move on,” Young said. “That is not a huge concern.”
Young had been saving his 13th and final scholarship for Blackshear. Young said he does not know if he will now use that scholarship to add another recruit this summer or if he will save it to use during the 2019-20 recruiting cycle.
Blackshear becomes the third Tech men’s basketball player to transfer to Florida in recent years.
Current NBA forward Dorian Finney-Smith transferred there after Seth Greenberg was fired as Tech’s coach in 2012. Jalen Hudson transferred there in 2016, after Williams’ second season at Tech.