Florida target Kerry Blackshear finishing SEC tour
The top target on the Florida men’s basketball recruiting board this summer is, in case you have been living under a rock, Virginia Tech transfer Kerry Blackshear. The talented big man, who opted against remaining in the NBA Draft pool in late May, is considering a handful of schools as possible destinations for a final collegiate year.
Florida got Blackshear’s first visit a little under two weeks ago, and he’s been touring SEC schools since, making trips to Arkansas and Tennessee over the last several days and scheduling a visit to Kentucky for Tuesday.
But Blackshear has also been linked to Memphis and had Chris Dortch — the publisher of the long-running Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, and a Volunteer State resident — predict on Twitter on Sunday that his decision would come down to Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas A&M — the latter a program now run by Blackshear’s Virginia Tech coach, Buzz Williams.
So it would seem that Blackshear is either souring on Florida, the program he has been linked to for the longest and for the clearest reason — Blackshear is from Orlando, where his family remains, and Florida obviously has that proximity working in its favor — or that there’s a lot of smoke swirling around him, with precious little actual information about his wants.
Count me in the camp of those believing the latter to be true, given what I’ve been told about Blackshear’s thinking by a good source.
And while I do think it’s very much possible that Blackshear could land at Kentucky, which is, well, Kentucky, I also think that of his supposed contenders, Florida presents the best opportunity from a basketball perspective. With the Gators, he would not be sharing many minutes with equally talented frontcourt players (a potential issue at Kentucky, especially given how splitting minutes played out just last year for Stanford graduate transfer Reid Travis, or at Memphis, where he would be the 1B to incoming freshman James Wiseman’s 1A at best) and would be joining a more talented core than what Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Virginia Tech — which Blackshear has never formally ruled out a return to, but which stands as a dark horse at best — have on hand.
It will be interesting to see whether Blackshear shuts down his recruitment, either by taking no more visits or making a commitment, after visiting Kentucky, and also to see whether he ultimately treks to Texas A&M and/or is visited by any of the many coaches in hot pursuit of his final year on a college floor. There’s still more time on the clock, I think — but Blackshear himself has the power to sound the buzzer whenever he wants.
Grant Holloway goes pro after legendary NCAA Outdoors performance
I haven’t written at length about Florida track superstar Grant Holloway’s sensational showing at the NCAA Outdoor Championships two weekends ago, and that’s a failing on my part, especially because Holloway is now a former Florida track superstar, having made public his signing of a professional contract with Adidas over the weekend.
Holloway, whose 12.98-second thrill ride in the 110-meter hurdles broke a decades-old collegiate record held by the legendary Renaldo Nehemiah and made him one of just a handful of humans to ever break 13 seconds in the event, will also be repped by the Stellar Athletics team, alongside hurdles rival Daniel Roberts and fellow Gator Yanis David, with a strong chance of competing for medals at the 2019 World Championships that take place in Qatar beginning in late September and legitimate hopes of being part of the United States delegation for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Holloway going pro is about the furthest thing from a surprise possible, given that he surprised some by both enrolling at Florida in the first place and returning for his junior season after being nearly as brilliant as a sophomore. But Holloway was able to improve and set a new standard in Gators colors and under the tutelage of Florida coach Mouse Holloway (no relation), and while the Gators will obviously not have his star power in 2020 and beyond, the trail he blazed in orange and blue will be remembered forever.
Just don’t suggest he should play football for Florida.
Florida baseball coaching staff in flux ... just like Matthew Allan
This time of year is so often one for Florida baseball to still be striving for a national championship that Florida sitting out the 2019 College World Series while four SEC teams and a Florida State team that the Gators swept in 2019 take the field in Omaha is odd.
Also odd, though? Florida using a down year that still resulted in an NCAA Tournament berth to shake up its staff, with assistant coach Brad Weitzel being let go last week, per a report from Kendall Rogers of D1 Baseball.
Weitzel, a Georgia alum, had been on Kevin O’Sullivan’s staff for every year of the latter’s 12 seasons at Florida, and that staff had consisted of Craig Bell and Weitzel working under O’Sullivan without any interruption for that entire time — until last week, that is.
It’s hard to clearly delineate how Florida’s staff divided its duties, especially given that volunteer assistant coach Lars Davis has become an increasingly large part of the Gators’ staff in recent years, but if O’Sullivan was the de facto pitching coach and Bell the recruiting coordinator for most of their years together, Weitzel was closer to the hitting coach, and thus came in for criticism for some of the years over the past decade when the good to very good Florida offenses at the plate still couldn’t match the very good to great pitching the Gators seemed to have as a baseline.
And so it is odd, to say the least, that Weitzel would find himself out of a job after a year in which Florida’s high point was its offense, as a young team found its footing and often performed heroically to keep the Gators in slugfests during one of the worst pitching seasons of the O’Sullivan era.
But Florida — and the rest of college baseball — was put in a pinch by the failure of a movement to add a third full-time coach to baseball and softball staffs this spring, and while Davis was thought of as a no-brainer third coach for the Gators had the initiative passed, it’s possible that O’Sullivan essentially chose Davis over Weitzel, and will ultimately elevate him to the paid assistant position.
It’s also possible that Florida will look elsewhere to replace Weitzel, with Rogers reporting last week that USF assistant Chuck Jeroloman — whose name may sound familiar because his brother Brian played for Florida before a lengthy minor-league career — was “likely headed” to Florida.
Whatever did happen between O’Sullivan and Weitzel, though, it counts as a shakeup few publicly predicted would happen.
More predictable, and potentially better for the Gators? The New York Mets potentially screwing up their pursuit of top prep pitcher Matthew Allan, a Florida commit whose potential signing with the pro team in orange and blue appears somewhat less likely than it did a week and a half ago.
Allan, you may recall, was considered a surefire first-rounder on talent, but slipped to the third round because of significant contract demands. That’s where the Mets drafted him, hoping to essentially lowball all of their other picks and clear room to sign Allan to a deal in excess of his MLB-suggested “slot value.”
What, precisely, Allan wanted to sign is a matter of some debate: The figure $4 million became the conventional wisdom early on in the MLB Draft, but reporting revised it downward to about $3 million when he was actually selected.
The Mets have now signed their second-round pick to a deal in excess of his slot value, though — almost a million more, mind you — and thus have closer to $2.5 million available for Allan ... who would almost certainly have not slipped to the third round had he been willing to accept that number on draft night.
Apparently, the Mets remain “very confident” on Allan, which probably has some value. But one should remember that the Mets are a) the Mets, and b) thus the same organization that spent a day dissembling about whether or not their best player suffered ankle fractures because he was riding a horse or doing something else on his ranch not even one full month ago, so I would suggest considering the source on any declarations of confidence.
UF has big plans with big price tag
Finally for this week’s Buffet (which I’m totally doing weekly in a different format going forward, by the way): The University of Florida is hoping to spend more than two billion dollars on significant building projects over the next 10 years in a quest to improve from a top-10 public university to a top-five school.
Among the projects planned are a new honors college complex; a new college of dentistry; a new central energy plant; sweeping renovations to existing dorms; and, of course, the University Athletic Association’s $65 million football-only facility.
That latter building is the big-ticket goal for the UAA in the short-to-medium term, as the final step of a three-phase facilities upgrade that also includes the finished renovations to softball’s Katie Seashole Pressley Stadium and the relocation of Florida’s baseball facility from McKethan Stadium to a new stadium that is currently being called Florida Ballpark and being built in the southwest corner of campus.
But seeing a $65 million football-only facility listed as one of many eight- and nine-figure projects planned by UF and the UAA and considering that the UAA, which should turn a profit again in 2019-20 even after approving an operating budget that tops $140 million for the first time, is an entity whose power and wealth are dwarfed by the power and wealth held by UF and its $2 billion endowment is a reminder that some of what is thought of as significant spending in college athletics is still just a drop in the bucket compared to the even larger industry that is higher education.