Vols Listed as “Dark Horse” Team for Coveted Grad Transfer

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    (Photo via The Associated Press)

    With Tennessee star forward Grant Williams receiving so many first-round grades from several NBA Draft analysts, it appears more and more likely that the two-time SEC Player of the Year could keep his name in the draft pool and not return to Tennessee for his senior season. The Vols would be hard-pressed to replace Williams’ production, but it looks like they’re in the market to try and do just that.

    According to Corey Evans of Rivals.com, Tennessee is one of a small handful of teams he considers as “dark horse” candidates to land one of the most highly sought-after grad transfers on the market this offseason. Virginia Tech forward/center Kerry Blackshear announced his intention to transfer recently, and he’s arguably the hottest name on the grad transfer market right now.

    Kentucky head coach John Calipari recently visited Blackshear, but Evans doesn’t believe Kentucky should feel extremely comfortable with their chances of getting the talented big man to sign with them.

    “The Wildcats are definitely a top suitor for him, but this is not a done deal for the blue blood,” Evans writes. “There has been talk of his desire to play close to home which would bolster Florida’s chances with him. However, there are some dark horses in the race as Gonzaga, Michigan State and Tennessee are three to keep an eye on.”

    Blackshear, who hails from Orlando, is currently testing the NBA Draft waters, but many believe he will opt to return to college for a final season. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward/center announced his decision to transfer off Virginia Tech’s roster after head coach Buzz Williams left to take the head coaching job at Texas A&M this offseason.

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    Last season, Blackshear averaged 14.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists while shooting 50.8 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three, and 73.6 percent from the free throw line in 35 games. Blackshear was named a Second-Team All-ACC performer for the Hokies.

    Blackshear was second on the team in scoring per game and first in rebounds per game for Virginia Tech this past season. He also led the team in blocks with 27. Blackshear’s efforts helped lead Virginia Tech to the most wins in a single season in program history, and the Hokies reached only their second Sweet Sixteen ever in school history.

    In Virginia Tech’s three NCAA Tournament games against Liberty, St. Louis, and Duke, Blackshear averaged 17.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. During the season, Blackshear eclipsed the 20-point mark seven different times and recorded nine double-doubles.

    Blackshear is considered one of the best passing big men in college basketball, and he racked up four or more assists in nine games this season.

    There’s a chance that Blackshear follows his head coach to Texas A&M, as Buzz Williams also made an in-home visit to see Blackshear over the weekend. But right now, Blackshear’s destination is still very much in the air, and he’s not likely to make a college commitment until he goes through the NBA Draft process. He has until May 29th to remove his name from the draft pool.

    Tennessee’s Grant Williams also has until that deadline to withdraw his name from consideration for the NBA Draft. The two-time SEC Player of the Year and consensus First-Team All-American averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 37 games for the Vols this past season.

    The Vols have been fairly active in the grad transfer market in the Rick Barnes era of Tennessee basketball. Tennessee has brought in three different grad transfers under Rick Barnes, and they almost got a fourth last offseason. Barnes and his staff have brought in Ian Chiles (2014-15), Lew Evans (2016-17), and James Daniel III (2017-18) as grad transfers over the last few years. Last offseason, Tennessee got a commitment from Richmond grad transfer Khwan Fore, but he eventually decommitted and signed with Louisville instead.



    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.