Kerry Blackshear is one of only two players on Virginia Tech’s roster taller than 6’6''. On a team that lacks big post players to swallow up rebounds, Blackshear’s reemergence this season has already proven essential for the Hokies ability to match up down low.
Blackshear missed all of last season with a lower leg injury. He underwent surgery shortly after his freshman season ended in Spring 2016, and spent most of the next season in rehab. However, while in recovery, Blackshear gradually became an active participant in practices. A source close to the team tells us that the coaching staff was very cautious with Blackshear in practice during the 2016-17 season, but as time went on and he continued to heal, his role on the scout team became bigger and bigger.
Coach Buzz Williams decided that it would be most worthwhile for Kerry and the program to have him sit out the entire season and take a medical redshirt. This gave Blackshear the freedom to work to recover at his own pace while also working on improving his skill.
And that he did.
Blackshear has shown vast improvement from his freshman season, and much of that can be accredited to the time he had to recover.
“I felt like he could’ve contributed to the team near the end of last year,” the source told us. “What he is doing now, he did last year with the scout team.”
The Kerry Blackshear that Hokie fans are seeing now is much different than the one they saw two seasons ago. This Kerry Blackshear is strong, aggressive, and is very much willing to use his 260-pound body to rough up smaller opponents.
Blackshear has started both games so far for the Hokies. He is second on the team in scoring with 22.5 points per game, and is the leading rebounder with 10.5 per game. He is also averaging 4 assists, 1 block and 1 steal.
Granted, this is a pretty small sample size against two teams who aren’t really that tough inside. However, it is obvious when watching Blackshear play that there is just something different about him.
“KJ could arguably be the most skilled guy in our program," Williams said of his starting center.
Many Tech fans (including myself) questioned his toughness after his first season. His talent was obvious, but it seemed often times he was timid in the post. However, I can now say with all confidence that Kerry Blackshear is the post presence the Hokies have been begging for.
With Khadim Sy leaving the team and Ty Outlaw out for the season, Kerry Blackshear is perhaps the most important player on Virginia Tech’s roster. Blackshear and former walk-on Nick Fullard are the only two centers on the roster, and while Williams loves to run a 4 or 5 guard lineup, having a skilled post player like Blackshear to get rebounds is essential in getting those quick guards out into transition.
Blackshear has seemed to be the perfect replacement in production for Zach LeDay, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a senior last season. Not only is he larger than most opponents at 6'10'', 260, he has elite footwork and a pretty decent shooting stroke. He has only attempted two three-pointers this season if you include the one he took in the exhibition against South Carolina, but he has made both of them.
His stroke from the free throw line has also improved, as he is shooting 75% this season compared to just under 56% his freshman season. His overall shooting has always been good, with his ability to make shots this season bringing his career field goal percentage up to 58%.
It is exciting for Hokie fans to see another big man able to produce offensively, especially with the biggest question coming into this season was replacing the production of LeDay. This question has seemingly been answered so far. Blackshear is bigger and stronger than LeDay, and has more of an ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot.
What made LeDay so good was his hustle and grit. At 6'7'', he was smaller than most of his opponents, particularly in the ACC. He was able to out-hustle his larger opponents to get rebounds and score in the paint.
If Blackshear can find a similar level of effort, the sky is truly the limit for him. If a heavily undersized big man can find success against the best centers in the nation, who's to say Kerry Blackshear can't?
We are only two games into this young season, but hopes are high in Blacksburg for Kerry Blackshear after an impressive start to the season.
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