Florida’s highly touted graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. will get his opportunity to experience the Sunshine Showdown on Sunday, when the sixth-ranked Gators play host to Florida State in Gainesville.
Blackshear, a 6-foot-10 forward, was a two-year starter at Virginia Tech before transferring to UF during the summer. He debuted with the Gators on Tuesday night with 20 points and 10 rebounds in a 74-59 season-opening victory against North Florida.
His double-double was the first by a Gator in a season opener since Mike Miller (25 points, 11 rebounds vs. Georgia Southern) did it in 1998.
“He scores on the interior, he draws fouls, and he can shoot it,” Gators coach Mike White said of Blackshear. “His most underrated asset is how well he passes the basketball. He’s extremely unselfish.”
Blackshear joins six freshmen on Florida’s roster.
“It’s about reps. With repetitions, you get so much better in a real game-environment against different people,” he said. “I was excited to get out there (Tuesday). I think we’ll be much better on Sunday.”
True freshman Tre Mann started and scored 11 points for the Gators, and fellow guard Noah Locke had 14 points. The two combined for no assists.
Andrew Nembhard, a 6-5 guard, scored just two points against North Florida on 1-of-7 shooting. Nembhard, Locke and 6-5 forward Keyontae Johnson (seven points, seven rebounds vs. UNF) all started as freshmen last season.
White, in his fifth season at UF, has been concerned with his Southeastern Conference team’s lack of intensity after building early leads.
“We’ve been outscored now in the second half by Lynn (in an exhibition game) and North Florida,” White said. “I told the guys in the locker room after (Tuesday’s) game that we will evaluate in every practice, and after every game, how many guys we can play. I’m not sure we can play ten or eleven guys, even nine, if we’re going to continue to have drop offs. That might mean we need to change our tempo.”
Florida will be trying to snap a five-game losing streak in the series with Florida State.
The Seminoles opened the season with a 63-61 loss at Atlantic Coast Conference rival Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
Senior guard Trent Forrest is the only starter returning from a team that won a school-record 29 games and reached the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 last season. He scored a team-high 19 points in the opener, and backcourt mate Devin Vassell added 14.
FSU played without 7-foot graduate transfer center Dominik Olejniczak (calf strain), one of Florida State’s six newcomers.
Against Pitt, the Seminoles shot 39.6 percent and hit just 6 of 20 from beyond the arc. Foul trouble prompted coach Leonard Hamilton to go 12 deep on his bench. However, Florida State held the Panthers to 31.4 percent shooting.
“I think we’re still in the developing stage and when you go on the road in the ACC regardless of who you’re playing, you’ve got to execute and be at your best,” said Hamilton, in his 18th year at FSU.
–Field Level Media